A section of Lincoln Road will be widened and undergo safety and stormwater improvements thanks to a 6-1 Whatcom County Council vote.
The $3.9 million project will purchase right of way and widen the roadway to allow for 12-foot lanes and eight foot shoulders in the stretch from Shintaffer Road to Harborview Road. Additionally, the project will add storm sewers, stormwater treatment swales and left turn lanes on Lincoln and Harborview Roads.
The Whatcom County Road Fund will provide $1.5 million, with the additional $2.4 million from a state grant. The construction on Lincoln Road is one part of a plan to reduce the traffic burden on Birch Bay Drive and better connect the Birch Bay and Semiahmoo areas to I-5.
The project is part of the Birch Bay comprehensive plan’s transportation chapter, a set of guidelines created by the Birch Bay Steering Committee, and has been on the county’s drawing board since the 1990s but has failed to move forward because of budget constraints.
“The safety issue is number one,” said council member Barbara Brenner, who voted in favor of the plan, and added that she was almost run off a narrow section of the road by a large truck.
“I do feel it’s got a second bang for our buck – it takes a lot of cars off Birch Bay Drive,” Brenner said.
Council member Ken Mann cast the lone vote in opposition to the measure, citing budgetary concerns.
“Talk about a huge expense,” Mann said. “$1.5 million out of the road fund is at least 10 percent of the budget.”
He also expressed skepticism that the volume of traffic on Lincoln Road merits the cost. “I don’t think we should be spending money on that road at this time,” Mann said. “I'm not willing to spend $1.5 million just because there’s $2.4 million attached to it.”
During the open session of the council meeting some local residents cast doubt on the validity of the monitoring study used to determine traffic on Lincoln Road, citing that the timing of the traffic study coincided too closely to the Fourth of July weekend. Others expressed support for the measure, citing safety concerns.
Doralee Booth, who chairs the Birch Bay steering committee’s transportation subcommittee, agreed, said when the road is fully completed it will provide an important arterial for Birch Point and Semiahmoo residents as they commute to I-5 as well as a safer route for pedestrians.
She added the project is currently the number one priority indicated by the community in the plan.
For more information about the project, visit the council’s web site at www.co.whatcom.wa.us/council