At its meeting tonight (Tuesday, September 13) The Whatcom County Council will consider a contract with a Federal-Way-based consulting firm for the design of seismic upgrades for the bridge spanning Dakota Creek just south of Blaine.
A 2010 structural assessment conducted on the bridge identified serious deficiencies that could result in the bridge collapsing in the event of an earthquake, according to Whatcom County Public Works. North Whatcom Fire and Rescue officials have historically expressed concern about the bridge because it cannot support the weight of the fire district's ladder trucks. This forces these particular trucks to travel south on I-5 and head back north to respond to fires in the general area of Dakota Creek.
I just got a call back from Chris Brueske, the county engineering manager associated with the project, and he confirmed the fire district has an issue with a separate bridge over Dakota Creek; one controlled by the state not the county.
The $163,838 contract will pay for just the design, not the construction, of the seismic upgrades. After the design is finished, county public works will seek a grant through the Washington State Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee (BRAC) to pay for the seismic upgrades to the bridge. The committee is a branch of the state department of transportation that provides advice on awarding state highway and bridge improvement funds.
Brueske said BRAC funding is a rather common source of funding for county bridge upgrades, and that the county currently has three bridge upgrade projects underway paid for through BRAC funds. If the county council approves the contract, the design is slated to be completed by March or April of 2012.
The county says the design work, once completed, would greatly increase the likelihood of the county receiving a BRAC grant for the necessary seismic upgrades. The county will most likely seek a $1.5 million to $2 million grant for the eventual construction project, and Brueske said past BRAC grants for seismic upgrades have awarded 100 percent of the funding requested without a match from the local government applying for the grant.
For more information on the design contract, contact Brueske at 360/715-7450 extension 50617.The county council meeting will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 13, at the county council chambers in Bellingham.