GSAsays port of entry project still on schedule

Published on Thu, Mar 15, 2007 by ack Kintner

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GSA says port of entry project still on schedule

By Jack Kintner

Despite the lack of visible progress in recent months the Peace Arch port of entry redevelopment project is right on schedule, according to Bill Lesh of the Government Services Administration (GSA) regional office in Portland. “I can’t give you an exact date, but we expect to begin breaking ground in the spring, perhaps in May,” Lesh said.

The original time table for the project that was presented at some of the initial scoping meetings two years ago called for a design phase to begin in December 2005 and last through July of 2006, for construction to begin in September of 2006 and be completed in a little over three years, just in time for the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in February of 2010.

Then early in 2006 the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) objected to the GSA plan because it lacked sufficient room for adequate freeway exits and entrances at interchange 276, which serves D Street in Blaine.

An accommodation was reached that involves replacing the lighted intersections on D Street and on the west side of the freeway where it becomes Peace Portal way with traffic circles, or roundabouts.

Subsequently, construction was scheduled to begin in 2007.
The WSDOT freeway project will be coordinated with the GSA project, and according to its project website has already been altered to reflect a construction timeline that begins in the summer of 2007.

Despite this delay, Lesh said that the project will be far enough along for Customs and Border Protection personnel to move into the 30,000-square-foot facility in a little over two years.

“We’re on schedule for initial occupancy in summer of 2009,” Lesh said, “and that means the administrative office, the secondary inspection building and secondary inspection area.

There will be some final work in the primary inspection lanes after that, but we really want to be all done well before the Olympic Games that winter.”

The $30 million project will replace the current facility and will expand its current three-acre footprint eastward, taking a major piece out of one of Blaine’s oldest neighborhoods primarily for a 72-car parking lot.

The area includes 13 residential units in the area between the freeway, Peace Arch Park, Second and C streets. The project also includes a 30,000-square-foot main building, ten inbound inspection lanes and a 40-car covered secondary inspection area.

“We’ve purchased all of those properties in the residential area and it’s just now been vacated,” Lesh said, adding that none of the structures are for sale.

“We really don’t have the time to negotiate all of that,” he said. The GSA’s archaeological assessment found houses over a century old but found only one, the Morrison House at Second and C streets, worthy of consideration as being of historical value, and it lies just outside the project’s footprint.

Ranger Jason Snow of Peace Arch State Park said that he thinks there may be a couple of people who still have to completely vacate the structures.

“They have said they’re getting ready to begin work soon, and asked us to inventory the plants in the residential area to see if we wanted to save any for the park, but we’ve found very little we can use,” Snow said.

Lesh said that there is currently no website for the Peace Arch renovation, as it’s called, but that he will have one up “soon.” The website for the WSDOT interchange 276 project is located at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5.