Property owners refuse DOT right-of-way buyout

Published on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 by Tara Nelson

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A group of property and business owners in downtown Blaine are refusing to accept the Washington State Department of Transportation’s offers to buy rights-of-way to their properties.

The DOT has offered 11 landowners $500 compensation for rights-of-way access to their driveways to make room for a $13 million roundabout project on Marine Drive and Peace Portal Drive but at least three of those owners have refused to sign.

Tom Bridge, who owns the Drayton Harbor building, a multi-use building on Peace Portal Drive with both residential and commercial units, said he and several other propery owners are concerned about DOT regulations that would require approval before moving forward with any expansion or redevelopment that would increase traffic in that area.

Bridge said he owns a small lot between his building and the neighboring building that he would like to expand into but DOT regulations would make that difficult or impossible.

Bridge also questioned population projections used by the DOT in their traffic estimates, which use a population growth rate of 4.5 percent. At that rate, project engineers said the intersection would fail in about 20 years with roundabouts and within 12 years with the current traffic signals. Bridge, however, said those projections are inaccurate.

“My calculations have been less than 1 percent in the last two years, according to figures obtained from the city of Blaine,” Bridge said. “You can see how some people feel there is no need for this. I don’t think Blaine has ever grown 4 1/2 percent consecutively for 15 years.”

Another problem, he said, is the removal of prime parking spaces in front of businesses such as Subway.
“Overall, we’re going to lose about 14 spaces,” he said.

During their regular meeting Monday, Blaine City Council gave a unanimous approval for public works director Steve Banham to negotiate with DOT officials about the possibility of creating diagonal parking on the west side of Peace Portal Drive up to H Street.

“We’re going to have to look into the feasibility of that,” said Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon. “We have looked into that in the past and we should relook because the businesses in that area are losing a considerable amount of parking with the roundabout construction.

“We definitely want to be supportive of those businesses and are working with the state to come to a conclusion soon.”

With regards to rights-of-way access, Onyon said she thought that decision was best left up to DOT officials.
“It’s definitely a safety factor, you can’t allow street access with driveways just anywhere,” she said. “It’s already a state route so the DOT calls the shots there.”

DOT officials, such as traffic engineer Dina Swires, however, call the project a “golden opportunity for Blaine” as a way to improve traffic flow for the next 20 years without tapping into the city’s road improvement fund.
Swires said the project has the  potential to improve traffic flow on D Street and Peace Portal Drive and beautify the entrance to the United States near the I-5 exit 276.

Of the two single-lane roundabouts planned, one will replace the two stoplights at the intersection of Peace Portal Drive and Marine Drive. The other will replace the stoplight on the east side of the freeway at the intersection of D and Second streets.

Those wanting to get a first-person update on the roundabout project can attend the next meeting of the Blaine Chamber of Commerce.

The meeting is scheduled for noon, Wednesday, February 3 at the Pizza Factory. Chris Damitio, project manager, give an update about the DOT’s contract and when the project is scheduled for completion. 
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