Construction begins at Birch Bay Square intersection

Published on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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Have you ever reached the intersection of Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Portal Way and been unclear as to whether you had the right of way or not? You’re not alone.

A Whatcom County Public Works department project hopes to clear any confusion by installing traffic signals, along with turn lanes, drainage and railroad crossing upgrades, better lighting and a stormwater retention pond. 

Work on the project is scheduled to last through August. 

Construction began April 14 with flaggers closing all but one lane during the day. Travelers can expect delays Monday through
 Friday beginning at 7 a.m. 

Originally scheduled for last fall, the project was pushed back due to the extreme wet weather. Part of the project includes the construction of a stormwater retention pond, but one of the wettest Septembers on record meant the groundwater table was too high for building the pond.

“We wanted to complete the project all in one go, so we delayed it until the dry season. We’re hoping the groundwater table will be low enough in the summer to allow us to build the pond,” said Whatcom County Public Works project engineer Kevin Thompson in an earlier interview.

While construction in total will last approximately five months, the portion of work that requires closing Birch Bay-Lynden Road completely and result in detours will only take five–10 days. That work is scheduled early in the construction process to minimize disruption to Birch Bay residents and visitors during the busy summer season. The closures will occur in two stages for two to five days each time. Thompson anticipated that those closures will happen in mid-May. 

During the closures, a detour route will run south on Portal Way to Grandview Road, west to Blaine Road and north on Blaine Road until drivers are reconnected to Birch Bay-Lynden Road. Locals are encouraged to take back roads that make for a shorter detour. Traffic on Birch Bay-Lynden Road will be down to one lane during some other periods.

Project engineers said construction will not take place at night as the addition of lights, safety measures and workers would substantially increase the cost of the project to taxpayers.

The county established the fund for the project in January 2013 with an initial budget of $3.6 million. Most of the funding for the project ($2.95 million) comes from two state funding programs: the Surface Transportation Program – Rural and the Rural Arterial Program.