Work to improve traffic flow and reduce collisions along the first mile of Guide Meridian/SR 539 is set to begin in early May.
At its daily peak the oft-used road often seems a lot like downtown Seattle on a busy day. It’s stop and go – with plenty of stop. It is estimated that roughly 45,000 drivers use the Guide every day to access the I-5 interchange and the shopping corridor within Bellingham’s city limits.
The highway has seen massive business and community growth over the years – far more than the area and the I-5 interchange were designed for when originally built.
“There are just too many entrances, exits and turn lanes crammed into the Guide near the I-5 interchange,” said Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) engineer Chris Damitio. “It’s almost like having the pit entrance and exit for the Indy 500 right at the starting line. It’s just too crowded.” Improvements farther north on the guide have improved traffic flow from the outskirts of Bellingham to Lynden.
While many drivers would like to see the interchange and this section of the Guide completely rebuilt, the funding is unavailable. WSDOT sees it as a compromise based on available funds. The decision comes after a couple of years of discussions with the city of Bellingham, local businesses and drivers, they said.
“With some creative reworking of this short section of highway, we think we can cost-effectively improve traffic flow and safety,” said Damitio.
WSDOT has selected Blaine-based Colacurcio Brothers, Inc. to modify traffic lanes and business access along the busiest stretch of Guide Meridian, thereby reducing congestion. The contractor’s bid for the project was $1.65 million.
Most of the work will be done at night so impact to motorists and businesses should be minimal.
Work will start this spring and should be completed by the end of the summer.