H Street revitalization project could have statewide effects

Published on Wed, Jul 4, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A project slated to spruce up H Street in downtown Blaine could also help small cities save money on electricity costs statewide.

Three local construction companies have submitted bids for the H Street revitalization project, which will overhaul the sidewalks along H Street and improve the surface of the road. Lynden-based Stremler Gravel submitted the lowest bid at $712,304, which was $64 less than the city engineer’s estimate.

“We’re sort of pinching ourselves that we got good bids,” assistant Blaine public works director Bill Bullock said. “They came in right on the engineer’s estimate.”

The city has received $520,000 in federal grant funding for design and construction of the transportation portions of the project and got help in meeting the 13.5 percent required match from the state Transportation Improvement Board (TIB), Bullock explained. The city will pay for the remaining 27 percent not covered by federal funding through its electric fund, since the project will add 26 streetlights to H Street that will match those on Peace Portal Drive.

In addition to the sidewalk and street improvements, Bullock said the city’s work could also have ramifications well outside of Blaine’s city limits. Through the project, the city will be working with the state TIB to study the use of high-efficiency lamps in streetlights.

The 26 new streetlights will have high-efficiency LED lamps  in them, which the city will monitor using electric meters. The city will also monitor streetlights that have standard lamps installed and share this data with the state TIB, Bullock explained.
TIB officials will use the data to prepare a feasibility study detailing electricity used in LED lamps compared with standard ones. Bullock said the idea is to share these findings with other small city governments to show how much energy and money can be saved using high-efficiency lamps.

“This feasibility study could help set statewide policy on this issue,” Bullock said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

With city council approval, work should start on the H Street improvement project by the end of July. Bullock said public works officials wanted to make sure the city’s major summer events, the Old Fashioned Fourth of July and the Jazz Festival, are not impacted by the construction work.

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. Blaine public works officials have said angled parking has the potential to make stopping and shopping along H Street more attractive to drivers.

The project will add curb extensions, called bulbouts, to the intersection of H and Third streets to improve the existing crosswalk. Bullock said bulbouts would allow pedestrians a clear line of sight down a row of parked cars. The bulbouts, 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 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 regulations require.

The project will also add benches, trash bins and bike racks to the sidewalks of H Street, in addition to fixing the portion of street that abuts the I-5 overpass. Bullock said the overpass approach repair was not originally going to be part of the project, but public works staff were able to include it based on Stremler’s low bid.