Countyapproves long-awaited road repairs

Published on Thu, Nov 1, 2007 by ack Kintner

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County approves long-awaited road repairs

By Jack Kintner

Whatcom County Council unanimously adopted a plan last week that gives the green light to two long-awaited road projects in the area, the repair of Drayton Harbor Road between Harbor View Road and Shintaffer and improvements to Lincoln Road between Shintaffer and Blaine Road, which is also State Highway 548.

Drayton Harbor Road has been closed since January of 2005 when heavy rain caused washouts under the roadway. After some complex permitting involving county, state and federal agencies the $1.2 million project was set to go last summer but was held up by an appeal from a resident who lives on the closed section of road.

The county council denied the appeal unanimously last fall and the project is once again set to proceed this month.

According to Whatcom County public works director Joe Rutan it’s a risk to begin the project in November but they’re going ahead with it to provide alternate access to and from Semiahmoo when work on Lincoln Road, which become Semiahmoo Parkway at Shintaffer Road, begins this summer.

Engineer Chris Brueske said that some of the permitting requirements that the county needed to satisfy in re-building the area under the roadway down to the beach were in conflict.

The Lincoln Road project was divided in half to allow the work to proceed on the west end of Lincoln next summer while permitting and engineering proceeds on the mile-long stretch between Harbor View and Blaine Road.

This decision was driven in part by sharply increased costs, according to Rutan, who said that what had been a $2 million project to improve Lincoln from Shintaffer to Harbor View is now expected to cost $3.8 million. An additional $150,000 was appropriated to pay for the preliminary work on the second half of the project.

The improved roadway will have two 12-foot lanes in each direction and an additional five feet devoted to bicycles, plus an off-pavement pedestrian pathway similar to the one that now runs along Semiahmoo Parkway. The cross-section of Harbor View to Blaine Road will be similar.

“Once the Lincoln road project is completed we’ll have a corridor from Semiahmoo to I-5 that will have only one stop, at a proposed traffic light to be installed at Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Portal Way, near interchange 270,” said.

The plan replaces stop signs on Lincoln with roundabouts at Harborview and Blaine Roads, and adds another roundabout at Blaine Road and Birch Bay-Lynden Road.

A fourth roundabout at Lincoln and Shintaffer will be constructed by developers of Horizons Village at Semiahmoo, a project currently on hold awaiting settlement of appeals over impact fees.

GSA to re-route freeway traffic beginning November 5
Government Services Administration (GSA) spokesman Bill Lesh announced last week that renovations to the Peace Arch border crossing have begun, and that border traffic will begin seeing detours on Monday, November 5 that will last for the next 18 months.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the issue as to whether or not the work can be completed in time so as not to impede access across the border for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Lesh said that he’s well aware of the time constraints.

“Can I absolutely, positively, drop dead guarantee that this will be done by our January 2010 target date? No. No one can. But I can tell you that the project has been set up to be flexible and will look for ways as we go along to shorten the time this will all take,” Lesh said, “and we’re confident that we’re going to have it done on time.

Another issue, especially for Blaine merchants who are seeing more Canadian shoppers, is access across the border and into Blaine during construction.

“One misconception I want to clear up is that there will only be two southbound lanes open,” Lesh said. “We plan to have four southbound lanes open this next week [of November 5] routed through inspection lanes on the east side of the present facility, three general lanes and one Nexus lane.

“On December 11 we will shift southbound traffic back to the west side of the present facility and open the lanes on the east side for northbound traffic for the next 18 months while we build a new freeway bridge that will cross over part of the new building.

Northbound traffic will use the present south-bound lanes while southbound traffic will travel down the present off-ramp into Blaine, through the D Street-Peace Portal Drive-Marine Drive intersection and then be directed back on to the freeway,” Lesh said.

Lesh said that the GSA is working closely with not only the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) but also with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Blaine city officials, including police chief Mike Haslip, to make sure traffic moves smoothly through the intersection.

Projected traffic wait times and construction schedules are available at the WSDOT website at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5/BlaineInterchange.

Alerts are also broadcast on the highway advisory radio and the traffic information system which are available by dialing 511.