Marine Drive improvements get thumbs-up

Published on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Improvements to Marine Drive near the railroad tracks will move ahead with minor changes after a Blaine Planning Commission vote last week.

Planning commissioners voted 5-0, with commissioner Richard May abstaining, at their April 12 meeting to approve a shoreline development permit for a project to add sidewalks and widen Marine Drive to 28 feet on both sides of the railroad crossing, just west of the Peace Portal Drive roundabout. Such a permit is necessary from the city of Blaine for construction work done within 200 feet of a shoreline.

The project originally called for 6-foot sidewalks on either side of Marine Drive, but planning commissioners thought this design limited bicycle and pedestrian access to Marine Park. In response, Blaine Public Works and Reichardt & Ebe Engineering, the city’s consultant, revised the proposal to add an 8-foot sidewalk on the north side of Marine Drive, west of the railroad tracks.

The construction will include sidewalk curb cuts where the Marine Drive trail starts on the west side of the tracks in addition to sidewalk ramps at the railroad crossing, Reichardt & Ebe engineer Dale Buys said.These features will allow bicyclists to smoothly transition from the road to the sidewalk.

When asked why an 8-foot sidewalk on the northwest side was not planned for in the first place, Blaine assistant public works director Bill Bullock said the design started with a 6-foot sidewalk to avoid dealing with the steep slopes down to the water on the north side. A 6-foot sidewalk would have only required a new wooden fence between pedestrians and the water, while an 8-foot sidewalk will require a sturdier metal fence and slope strengthening.

“With the 6-foot [sidewalk], we had to do very little with the steep slopes,” Bullock said. “It’s not as simple as making it two feet wider, or else we would have done that.”

With a planning commission decision now made, Blaine Public Works staff can put the project out for bid.

The city has received a $468,000 state transportation grant that requires $52,000 in matching funds. The Port of Bellingham is chipping in $26,000 and the city of Blaine will be on the hook for the remaining money.

Bullock expects the project to start after July 4 and take about one month. During construction, one lane will be closed with flaggers on site to direct traffic.