The Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) has agreed to certain conditions requested by the city of Blaine with regards to the construction of its $7.8 million roundabout project planned for Peace Portal Drive near the I-5 interchange.
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.
In a February 26 letter to mayor Bonnie Onyon, J.C. Lenzi, DOT assistant secretary of engineering and regional operations, said the department will agree to a number of conditions requested by city officials.
Those conditions include: Installing angle parking on the west side of Peace Portal Drive; verifying the roundabout’s design can accommodate oversized and low-clearance vehicles; installing signs at I-5 exits on which businesses can advertise; and changing the project’s design to improve delivery access to a driveway on Peace Portal.
The request comes in the wake of opposition from a group of business and property owners in the downtown core. The group, known as Business United and headed by property owner Tom Bridge, had expressed concerns about whether the project would provide adequate parking and handle oversized loads.
Bridge said he was satisfied with a majority of the requirements stated in the letter but said he was disappointed citizens weren’t given an opportunity to review them before they were approved by the city council.
He also claimed that Blaine city staff didn’t follow proper procedures before their February 22 council meeting because they didn’t make the conditions in the letter to Rep. Kelli Linville (D-Whatcom County) available for public comment prior to its approval.
“The element of process has not been done properly as a result of that we got blindsided by a lot of information we didn’t see ahead of time,” he said. Parking
DOT has worked with city officials to develop a preliminary proposal to develop angle parking on the west side of Peace Portal Drive but that the design would require removing bicycle lanes as a result. The design will also be revised to include parking on the north side of Marine Drive. Oversized loads
Lenzi said DOT has already reviewed traffic statistics for oversized vehicles traveling Marine Drive and that the data indicates only a small number of permit requests in the area within the last four years.
Because of this, Lenzi said the design would not reduce the ability of oversized loads to travel through those intersections. He added that additional considerations, such as shortening curb heights, installing removable signs are possible to accommodate even larger vehicles if needed. Signage
DOT has begun preparation work for the installation of motorist information signage and the current schedule plans to have the work completed by April.
Business logos will be installed on the signs once business owners provide them. Advertisements
The city of Blaine had requested DOT place ads in local newspapers on behalf of Blaine businesses but Lenzi said the DOT is not allowed to pay for advertising on behalf of private businesses. It will, however, issue press releases to notify and remind travelers those businesses will remain open during construction, as well as provide detour plans stating that downtown businesses are open and direct traffic toward the central business district. Lighting
The DOT has requested invoice information from the contractor for decorative lighting on the project and will work to modify the current contract to reduce costs. Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said.
Chris Damitio, a project engineer for DOT, said construction will begin in March. Most of the construction should be completed within 118 days.
In order to speed up construction of the roundabouts and reduce impacts to drivers and local businesses, WSDOT and the city of Blaine have agreed to close D Street for 50 consecutive days at the I-5 interchange.
During the closure, all businesses will remain open and detour routes will be provided to help drivers around the work. The project should be fully completed by Labor Day, he said.
“We want to get in, get them built, and get out as quickly as possible,” Damitio said. “It’s going to be inconvenient for some drivers and businesses no matter how we build it, but doing it this way should minimize the inconvenience.”
For more information, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5/blaineinterchange