County approves money for designing Dakota Creek bridge seismic upgrades

Published on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Whatcom County Public Works now has the go-ahead to pay for the design of seismic improvements to a bridge spanning Dakota Creek just south of Blaine after a Whatcom County Council vote last Tuesday.

The county council voted 4-3 to approve the $163,838 contract with Federal Way-based engineering firm BergerABAM, Inc., to design retrofits to the bridge that would keep it stable in an earthquake. Council members Barbara Brenner, Tony Larson and Ken Mann voted against the contract’s approval.

A 2010 structural assessment conducted on the bridge identified serious deficiencies that could result in the bridge collapsing in an earthquake, according to county public works. The 83-year-old bridge is on Peace Portal Drive just southeast of the I-5 on-ramp and is one of the county’s oldest bridges.

The contract will pay for just the design, not the construction, of the seismic upgrades. After the design is finished, county public works will seek a grant through the Washington State Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee (BRAC) to pay for the seismic upgrades to the bridge. The committee is a branch of the state department of transportation that provides advice on awarding state highway and bridge improvement funds.

Project engineer Chris Brueske said BRAC is a common source of funding for county bridge upgrades, and the county currently has three bridge upgrade projects underway that are paid for through BRAC funds. The design work is slated to start this week and be completed by March or April 2012.

The design work, once completed, would greatly increase the likelihood of the county receiving a BRAC grant for the necessary seismic upgrades, Brueske explained. The county will most likely seek a $1.5 to $2 million grant for the construction project. Brueske said past BRAC grants for seismic upgrades have been awarded 100 percent of the funding requested without a match from the local government.

Though the entire project cost could come from the state, Larson said that such an expenditure would not be a good use of depleted transportation funds. Brenner said she thought the upgrades were unnecessary because Dakota Creek bridge is not on the county’s list of bridges in critical need of improvement.She added that she would have liked more discussion on a traffic route not involving the bridge, one that would not take cars too far out of their way.

For more information on the design contract, contact Brueske at 360/715-7450, extension 50617.