The road leading to the pier at the end of Marine Drive has been deteriorating for some time, but Blaine’s public works department is taking the first steps towards repairing it.
At a public meeting held May 22, city officials considered the damage the road has endured and begin planning its remediation.
The biggest issue is the bulkhead, the long wooden retaining wall located on the south side of the road between the Star Fish
building and the pier itself.
Over the years, wave and tide action has undermined the bulkhead, leading to the road base sloughing away and causing voids to form beneath the pavement. Recent construction work on the pier with heavy vehicles using the road resulted in cracks to the road surface and the closure of the road to traffic. Much of the damage was to the south side of the road; the city has recently removed the asphalt on that side and placed barriers and tape to deter pedestrian traffic but public works assistant director Bill Bullock stresses that the road is still in a very precarious state.
“Never has the need to repair this road been so intense, widespread and serious,” he said. “We have conceptual options for how to fix the road, but none of that will matter until the bulkhead is repaired.”
The city estimates that repairing the bulkhead will cost roughly $3 million. The Port of Bellingham has historically been responsible for maintaining the bulkhead, so most, if not all, of the cost of repairs would fall to them. Now the city and the port must find funding for the project, most likely in the form of state or federal grants.
The pier renovations were completed for less than originally estimated, so the remaining money for that project will likely be put towards repairing the bulkhead.
The permitting process could take up to three years to get approval with the project itself possibly taking another two years to complete.
Public works officials are considering repair options such as shoring up the wall with riprap (large rocks and chunks of concrete), or installing a sheet pile, which is a large sheet of steel that’s driven into the ground and anchored. The first option is cheaper but has greater environmental impact while the second has fewer environmental impacts but a higher price tag.
The road is currently open to pedestrian traffic, and the city hopes to have one-lane vehicle traffic reestablished by mid to late June.