Obama stimulus plan would help local improvement projects
By Jack Kintner
A shelved project that would widen the quarter mile section of H Street between Ludwick Avenue and Vista Terrace may be back on track if federal funding from a newly proposed economic stimulus package comes through.
Called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, part of the bill is designed to help pay for infrastructure improvements that can be started, or “shovel ready,” within the next six months.
The legislation is currently working its way through congress so nothing definite is yet in place according to Whatcom Council of Governments (COG) deputy director Gordon Rogers.
“[The bill] will probably come out [of the House of Representatives] on Wednesday of this week, then it’s maybe another week or so until we see what the senate will do, then there’s a conference to reconcile differences and then it goes to the president. We just want to be as ready as we can be with a prioritized list of projects that are ready to go,” Rogers said.
The Whatcom Transportation Policy Board, a COG group consisting of the mayors of the county’s seven cities, county executive Pete Kremen and Port of Bellingham commissioner Scott Walker, has already compiled and ranked 34 projects for federal support. Number eight is the $2.6 million H street project that includes storm water and sewer improvements as well.
Five other projects ended up father down the list and are unlikely to receive funding, according to Blaine’s director of public works Steve Banham.
“There’s no guarantees that we’ll get anything, even for our first choice, the H Street project,” Banham said, “but we do want to be ready.” To that end, the city council recently approved spending up to $180,000 with Reichhardt and Elbe to complete engineering studies and prepare a plan.
The design now calls for two 15-foot traffic lanes with room for bicycles, sidewalks and gutters plus a two-way left turn lane in the middle, a retaining wall on the south side and improvements to stormwater and sewer utilities.
The other projects, and their ranking on the list, include number 21, build the pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks between the H Street Plaza and Milhollin Avenue near the public boat ramp, number 23, extend Boblett Street across the airport property, number 25, improve Marine Drive just west of Peace Portal, number 26, repair Bell Road between Hughes and Blaine Road and number 29, build the boardwalk between the G and H Street plazas.