Statecomes through with off-ramp cash

Published on Thu, Apr 20, 2006 by eg Olson

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State comes through with off-ramp cash

By Meg Olson

“We’re coming here to remodel the house in Blaine and we know that comes with disruptions,” said Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) assistant regional administrator Todd Harrison, who is overseeing the state’s reconstruction of the truck route.

Harrison told Blaine city council at their April 10 meeting that the project’s schedule and predicted traffic flow changes would be available at a May 4 open house, the first of several designed to lessen the impact of the $35 million project on the community.

The project is scheduled to start at the end of the month and some preliminary work was already in progress, Harrison said. The project will span two construction seasons and in this first season Harrison said, “what will happen is a lot of retaining wall construction,” along the existing roadway as the grade is lowered. The road itself is not anticipated to close completely at any time during the project, but D Street will be closed next year at the truck route as the new D Street overpass is built.

Harrison said an email notice list will be available at the upcoming meeting for members of the public to sign up for. He added the WSDOT website would be regularly updated with notices of road or lane closures.

Council members were also interested in news that a combination of federal funding and a match of $15 million recently approved by the state legislature would pay for reconstruction of the downtown Blaine on and off-ramps.

“We are fully funded to build that,” Harrison said, and they were working with General Services Administration planners to ensure that they are ready with a design to match the alternative chosen by GSA for a new Peace Arch port of entry.

Council member Jason Overstreet said one of his main concerns as changes are made to how travelers access Blaine is that changes are also made to signage. “I’m not advocating sign pollution and I know the border’s there but there’s also our city,” he said.

City manager Gary Tomsic agreed that this would be an appropriate time to implement an earlier study, which advocated three changes in freeway signage. “It’s surprising but many people don’t even know Blaine is on the water,” he said.

Blaine public works director Steve Banham said the improvements to the truck route would incorporate better signage to direct travelers on that route into downtown and back to the highway. “The path will be much better labeled,” he said.