Blaine public works staff are planning major improvements for H Street between Peace Portal and the I-5 overpass that, if all goes according to plan, will not cost the city a dime.
The H Street revitalization project would improve the sidewalks up to the post office and enhance the crosswalks at Third Street in addition to making cosmetic improvements.
The project, estimated at $520,000, would be fully funded through a federal transportation grant and a state transportation fund-matching program.
Public works staff presented preliminary designs for the project at a July 7 open house in the city council chambers.
Assistant public works director Bill Bullock said the project is still early in the design phase and welcomed comments from the public on how the designs could be improved. RH2 Engineering drew up the plans.
Blaine public works director Steve Banham said the main goals of the project are to further a contiguous look and feel to downtown Blaine and make retail along H Street more accessible.
Public works staff will host another open house on the project once design is about 60 percent complete, which should be some time in late summer.
The estimated cost could change because it is not based on a fully completed design, Bullock said. The funding sources have room for cost overages of about 10 percent. If design and permitting proceed on schedule, construction could start in the spring of 2012.
“We will do as many improvements as we can within the budget,” Bullock said.
The most significant additions to H Street will be angled parking spaces on the north side of the street and new crosswalks at the intersection with Third Street. Banham said angled parking has the potential to make stopping and shopping along H Street more attractive to drivers.
“People hate to parallel park,” Banham said. “If they can angle park, they are more willing to stop.”
The project would also add curb extensions, called bulb-outs, to the intersection of H and Third streets to improve the existing crosswalk. Bullock said bulb-outs would allow pedestrians a clear line of sight down a row of parked cars.
The bulb-outs, which would narrow the road at the crosswalks from 40 feet to 26 feet, would also slow traffic along H Street, making pedestrian crossings safer.
The H Street improvements will also bring the sidewalk ramps at driveways and intersections into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.
The current sidewalk ramps, which were built before ADA laws were put in place, are steeper than ADA regulations require. One of the conditions of the federal grant was ADA-compliant improvements, Bullock said.
In additional to functional upgrades to H Street, the project could also include installation of street-side trees and bushes, decorative, turn-of-the-century lamp posts and brickwork in the sidewalks. This portion of the project is meant to make H Street look more like Peace Portal Drive, Banham said.
Kathleen Capson, director of the Salishan Chapter of the Blaine Neighborhood Association, said she likes the idea of street-side bushes more than trees because trees have the potential to create a closed-in feeling. She said, however, that continuity in appearance with Peace Portal Drive is important to downtown Blaine.
Blaine resident Ron Freeman said trees could also block views of store windows and suggested flower baskets be included with the decorative lamp posts. Freeman and Capson agreed improving the safety and appearance of H Street both need to be done.