County doubles budget for Birch Bay Drive project

Published on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 by Ian Ferguson

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The Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project is getting back on track after negotiations with the original design firm broke down in March.

Whatcom County Council doubled funding for the project at a recent meeting, and public works officials say they are close to reaching a contract agreement with a new design firm.

County councilmembers unanimously approved an ordinance adding $1.1 million to the project budget at their regular meeting June 17, bringing the total budget to $2.2 million. A combination of federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds and county funds make up the budget increase.

The total estimated cost of the project is $11.4 million, but the county is budgeting for the project in phases. The $1.1 million added to the current budget will be used for planning and acquiring environmental permits.

“The money was added to cover the cost of preliminary engineering, right-of-way coordination and environmental permitting,” said Whatcom County Public Works project engineer Kevin Thompson. He added that the money would not be used to purchase any right-of-ways.

The Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project involves a 1.58-mile berm and pedestrian pathway on the west side of Birch Bay Drive and is designed  to prevent beach erosion and protect the roadway and nearby businesses from flooding.

Negotiations with Everett-based engineering firm Reid Middleton failed in March, and the county began seeking another designer. One firm responded to the request for qualifications: Environmental Science Associates (ESA), an environmental design firm founded in California in 1969 with offices in Seattle and Portland.

“It looks like we’re getting close to reaching an agreement and signing a contract,” Thompson said. “This seems like a good firm and we’re ready to move forward.”

County council extended the budgeted timeline through 2015. According to the project narrative from public works, preliminary engineering will begin later this year and construction is expected to begin in 2016.