DOT ready to design new I-5 interchange near Blaine
Washington State Department of Transportation engineer Todd Harrison was primarily before Blaine city council to talk about the funding shortfall for the truck crossing project, but city council members and staff were more interested in preserving and enhancing Blaine’s access to Interstate 5.
“Are we the only community in Washington that is right on the freeway and don’t have one single full interchange?” asked city manager Gary Tomsic at the February 13 city council meeting. Tomsic acknowledged that while exit 276 did permit freeway access and egress in both directions, it didn’t operate the way a normal interchange would due to ramp locations and its proximity to the border. “It’s not a typically designed full-access facility and it’s not ideally located for our community,” Tomsic said.
Harrison said his department had been working with the general services administration (GSA) for several years on how to modify the ramps when the new border facility is built. “The goal is to narrow the focus of the GSA concepts so we can go ahead with the engineering and we’re ready,” he said. The state has already secured $5 million in federal funding for design and has identified a source of construction funds.
Council member Bonnie Onyon wanted to know if the option of moving the ramp to 3rd Street was still being considered, giving drivers more time to decide to take the only southbound exit into Blaine. “One of the goals of this is clear decision points,” Harrison said, adding a more channelized exit from the inspection area of the border facility would calm traffic and increase decisions times.
Council member Bruce Wolf also wanted to push for a new interchange at exit 274, to be integrated with changes at Bell Road and an overpass for what he saw as an increasingly inconvenient railroad crossing. “We’re a split town,” he said. Harrison said the city had been the lead agency on an access point study that the state would review to select a preferred alternative.