D Street scheduled to open mid-November
The D Street bridge over
state Highway 543, locally known as the truck route, will open
in mid-November, according to project engineer Chris Damitio of
the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
“Though we originally had hoped to open it last August when we were planning the project, it proved better to wait and do some more work down below. Because of that we’re about six months ahead of schedule,” Damitio said.
That evidently helped the legislature live with a 12 percent cost over-run, as extra money was appropriated to help the DOT deal with unforeseen obstacles.
bed of highway 543 is about 22 feet lower under the D Street bridge,” said
DOT spokesman Dustin Terpening, “but
the piling that support the retaining walls on either side go
down a lot farther, some as much as 60 feet below the road. We
tell what we’d run into down there, and if it was a rock
we had to just go through it rather than move it out of the way.”
The heavy clay in the hill through which the project goes was also more costly to deal with than anticipated, Terpening said.
Building the new highway has tied up east Blaine’s traffic up for over a year. Aside from the major earth-moving involved in lowering five lanes of traffic over 20 feet, crews have drilled holes for 1,400 pilings to bolster retaining walls, resurfaced and toughened the H Street Highway 543 intersection with concrete, erected noise barriers and in the process hauled 7,325 yards of concrete.
“That much concrete, about 732 truckloads, would make a single 12-foot lane about four miles long,” said Damitio. He also pointed out that the project has some unique features, such as the fact that the D Street bridge was built “right on the ground as a flat slab bridge, and then the ground itself was removed. This saved a lot in not having to build a lot of temporary structures.”
When opened up next month the bridge will once again provide access to traffic coming to and from Blaine along D Street, although Damitio said that the impact will be less than it might have been because the work on the H Street – Highway 543 intersection, a traffic bottleneck for months, is basically finished. Both intersections become available, he added “just as they’re getting ready to start on the new customs facility at the Peace Arch.”
Terpening said that there will be a learning curve for drivers once the project is finished next summer. “We’re going to put up fairly large signs and a lot of lights to show people where to go. From H Street north there will be three north-bound lanes, two for autos and one for trucks.
The truck lane will then split once it’s north of the overpass into lanes for expedited traffic under the F.A.S.T. program and regular commercial traffic, and will also have a temporary parking area where truckers can leave their rigs to go inside for paperwork.
There will be two southbound lanes, and between them on-ramps that follow the contour of the hill that once was there will carry traffic to and from D Street. “It’s been like putting together a giant puzzle,” Damitio said, “but we’re almost there, and we appreciate how patient the people of Blaine have been with all this.”
For more information contact Damitio at 788-7403, or go to the WSDOT project website at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/News/2006/04/26_SR543USCanadianBorder.htm.