GSAto route freeway traffic through downtown

Published on Thu, Jul 12, 2007 by ara Nelson

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GSA to route freeway traffic through downtown

By Tara Nelson

The U.S. General Service Administration has scheduled a community meeting next week to discuss routing freeway traffic through downtown during the first phase of their scheduled reconstruction of the Peace Arch Port of Entry.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 17 at the Community Center.

Blaine Public Works Director Steve Banham said the traffic detour is scheduled to begin during the GSA’s first phase of construction of a new bridge in November and will continue until February 2009.

The new bridge will connect the freeway to the Peace Arch customs facility and is part of a larger plan to expand the current border facility to improve traffic flow and inspections.

Beginning as early as August, crews will install a number of utilities under the current southbound lanes of I-5 and redirecting southbound traffic to the east side of the port facility.

Then, in November, crews will direct southbound traffic off the Blaine exit and back onto the onramp. Northbound traffic will be transferred to the southbound lanes, he said.

In a regular meeting of Blaine City Council Monday, Banham told council members that while this may cause some congestion at the intersection of Peace Portal Drive and the freeway off ramp, the additional traffic could be a boon for downtown businesses in Blaine.

“The downtown business community is very much in support of this,” he said. “The police department, meanwhile, is a little mixed about it but it’s throttled by the fact that you only have so many people coming through at a time. So there are obviously some details there that need to be worked out.”

Councilmember John Liebert asked if there was anyway to re-route traffic to the truck border crossing on SR 543.

“Oh no, there’s construction going on there too!” he said.
Councilmember Bonnie Onyon, however, disagreed.

“This is good because it gets people into Blaine,” she said. “We ought to take advantage of having some really good signage there, directional and otherwise.”

DOT officials said construction on the new facility is scheduled to begin next summer on and the department will begin preliminary design work and install traffic monitoring systems in the roadway between now and next spring.

In the meantime, Banham said GSA is working with the Washington State Department of Transportation to develop traffic flow predictions for that area by next month.