Reconstructed southbound lanes of I-5 at the Peace Arch were opened to traffic on Wednesday eliminating, for the time being, a detour through the Blaine exit that has been in place for over 18 months while the federal General Services Administration (GSA) builds a new customs facility to replace the current 1970s era building.
According to Ross Buffington of the GSA, the lanes were re-opened in anticipation of increased southbound traffic associated with the holidays and especially with the Winter Olympics. The GSA’s original timetable called for the project to be completed by this January, but that goal fell victim to unforeseen difficulties ranging from problems with the soil to design considerations that minimized the project’s impact on Peace Arch State Park.
The project is now slated for completion one year from now, but in recent months the project has actually gone more quickly than planned, although Buffington declined to say how far ahead of schedule they are. The competition itself is set for next February 12 through the 28 but there are a lot of related activities that the GSA feels will draw increased traffic through Blaine so they want to begin getting ready for that now even if it means further delays.
For example, over 600 ticketed and free performances, exhibits and displays are planned in over 60 venues in Vancouver and on the Sea-to-Sky corridor under the banner of the Vancouver Cultural Olympiad that begins in late January, concluding on March 21.
“After the Olympics,” Buffington said, “Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will move into the new station and then work will begin to demolish the current station and replace the southbound lanes of I-5.”