Improvements to a stretch of road north of Birch Bay are on the top of the county’s 2011 construction project list.
Whatcom County Council voted 6-1 to adopt the county’s 2011 annual construction program at their regular meeting on Tuesday, September 28. Councilmember Ken Mann voted against the resolution.
The construction program reflects the first year of the county’s 2011-2016 six-year road capital construction program.
The first project on the list of 44 is phase one of a $3.9 million project to widen and improve the section of Lincoln Road between Shintaffer and Harborview roads north of Birch Bay.
The project is slated to begin next year and be completed by the end of 2011. The county is currently working on design, permitting and acquiring rights of way.
Mann cited the price tag of some of the items on the program, including the Lincoln Road improvements, as his reason for not supporting its adoption. He said he thinks the plan is filled with too many expensive projects that the county cannot afford right now.
“I can’t vote for something I feel is not a good use of funds in the long term,” Mann said.
Council members Sam Crawford and Ward Nelson said in response to Mann that the taxpayer dollars set aside for the projects in the program can really only be used for construction projects.
Crawford pointed out all the projects in the 2011 plan improve existing roads and intersections and do not include adding roads.
Frank Abart, the county public works department director, said the enhancements to Lincoln Road are meant to improve the road’s safety.
The county’s construction program included four other projects in the Blaine and Birch Bay communities.
The second and third projects in the program are, respectively, improvements to the intersection of Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Portal Way east of Birch Bay and the long planned berm project along Birch Bay Drive.
Birch Bay steering committee chair Kathy Berg said the inclusion of the berm project on the county’s construction plan does not mean the project will receive funds from the county. Its presence on the program just means it is on the county’s radar and would allow the project to receive state and federal grants, Berg said.
The berm project has gotten more attention in recent months due to Birch Bay’s recently completed tourism study.
The project would make the stretch of Birch Bay Drive friendlier to walking and biking by adding a trail between the bay and the road.
The tourism study identified the berm project as one way to increase tourism to the Birch Bay community proper. The estimated funding years for the $7.1 million project are 2013-2014.
The other two projects listed in the Blaine and Birch Bay communities are improvements to the intersection of Birch Bay-Lynden and Blaine roads and rehabilitation of the Portal Way bridge over Dakota Creek southeast of Blaine.