MarineDrive reconstruction to get underway

Published on Thu, Mar 10, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Marine Drive reconstruction to get underway

By Jack Kintner

The first phase of the $30 plus million project that will ultimately relocate city wastewater treatment facilities to Marine Drive gets underway this year, and in the process will also provide Blaine with a dramatically spruced up Marine Drive within the next 18 months.
“We hope it’s within the year,” said Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic, who meets Thursday, March 10 with officials from the Port of Bellingham, who have agreed to help pay for the road improvements.

“Our role is a lot like someone paying a local improvement district (LID) tax on improvements to the road in front of his house,” said port director of facilities Fred Seeger. “The port’s interest lies in that we’re the main user on the south side of the road,” Seeger continued, “our tenants are the main users there, everything from commercial fishers to pleasure boaters, industrial and recreational users.”

The $6 million project will affect roughly two-thirds of Marine Drive, the part between the railroad crossing and the large white “station one” tank that at one time was Blaine’s sole wastewater treatment facility.

Blaine director of public works Steve Banham said the 60,000 gallon white tank, now used for wastewater storage when the system is overloaded, will be replaced with one nearly 12 times as big buried underneath Marine Drive east of where the present tank sits. To help rebuild the road Banham said that the city “recently received a Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) grant for a half million dollars, which together with the port’s help will get us a lot closer to the $6 million that burying the tank and rebuilding Marine Drive is projected to cost.” The city also has secured a $5.08 million loan from the state public works trust fund at one-half of one per cent interest, and according to Banham additional money beyond that is available to help move utilities. “The Port of Bellingham’s share in the expenses has yet to be determined,” Banham said, “but the total construction number we’re looking at is $5.8 million for construction, and we anticipate beginning excavation next fall, September or October.”

The question is, what will the new, improved Marine Drive look like? “Well, we’ll have curbs and gutters for sure, sidewalks on one or both sides, maybe some trees,” said Tomsic, “but it probably won’t look much like some of the old artist’s conceptions of Marine Drive rolling around. One I saw recently was drawn up before I arrived almost five years ago to take this job.”

Port commissioner Jim Jorgensen of Blaine is enthusiastic about the port’s participation, saying that “we want people to turn that corner off Peace Portal onto Marine Drive and say ‘Wow.’” Jorgensen was primarily responsible in turning what had been an old garbage dump into Blaine Marine Park 20 years ago.

Eventually, a replica of the old Blaine lighthouse will be constructed to hide the station one tank, but Banham also said he hopes there will be some kind of water feature. “It will be nice to show folks how clean this water is that we’ll be putting back. You know when you drive by the Tulalip Casino north of Everett on I-5, that fountain they have is the final aeration stage in their w water treatment system.”

Design will be by Tetra-Tech/KCM, the same firm that designed Bakerview Road between Northwest Drive and the Guide Meridian. Banham said that though the city “doesn’t have much money for streets, the Port of Bellingham’s help will let us do more, sooner. We also just received some federal grant money that will help us take the street improvements west toward the public pier. We’ll come up with some choices and then go back to the public and ask for feedback.”