The rainy season is giving way to construction season, and drivers in every corner of Whatcom County are bound to encounter closed lanes and detours in the months ahead.
The state Department of Transportation doesn't have a lot of big-ticket projects in Whatcom County this year. The state's most significant work will take place on Meridian Street, between Interstate 5 and Horton Road. The agency and the contractor plan to close lanes only at night.
Another big Bellingham project, this one being handled by the city, is a roundabout at the intersection of Boulevard, State Street, North Forest Street and Wharf Street. This will meet immediate safety needs and serve future development of the waterfront at the bottom of Wharf Street.
The following list of 2013 road projects describes the most significant or visible work:
Wharf Street: The roundabout, with an estimated cost of $3 million, will be built from late June or early July to September. Wharf Street may be closed at times. Flaggers will direct traffic through the intersection.
Bakerview overpass: The City Council awarded Ram Construction the job on Monday, April 22, accepting Ram's bid of $2.33 million. City officials expect significant growth around the interchange at West Bakerview Road and I-5, just west of Fred Meyer. Costco and the city have been talking over the past year about how the city can prepare that area for more development, possibly to include the relocation of Costco.
The freeway overpass will get a second westbound lane, the west Fred Meyer exit will get a second left-turn lane, and a right-turn lane will be added to Airport Drive at Maplewood Avenue to improve traffic flow to the northbound I-5 on-ramp.
The city intends to minimize the traffic impact by limiting construction to nights. Drivers are still asked to use alternate routes. Work is expected to take place from May to October.
Northwest-McLeod roundabout: Strider Construction gets into the meat of this $1.1 million construction project, after some preliminary work in 2012. Work is underway and scheduled to end in June. Crews will demolish Northwest Avenue near the intersection to install some features of the roundabout. Traffic will be reduced to one lane, and drivers are advised to use the posted detours.
STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Meridian Street: Spot improvements will be made on Meridian Street on the 1.7-mile stretch from I-5 to Horton Road. Additional turn lanes and a centerline curb will reduce backups in the busy south end of this stretch, which handles about 45,000 vehicles a day. Improvements at Meridian and Telegraph Road should reduce the number of collisions at the most crash-prone intersection on the project site. Work should extend from June into the fall, with work hours from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Padden Creek bridge: Crews will build a bridge over Padden Creek on Old Fairhaven Parkway, near 20th Street. This $2.6 million project is part of a multi-year effort to restore the creek to its original channel, taking it out of a century-old, 2,200-foot brick tunnel that is impassable to migrating fish. The parkway will remain open; a temporary road will be built next to the bridge construction. Work should begin in May, and the state hopes to have the new bridge open by Thanksgiving.
Badger Road roundabouts: Colacurcio Brothers Construction Company is building two roundabouts, about a half-mile apart, at Bender and Depot roads. Badger is a busy state highway on the north side of Lynden that connects two border-crossing highways. This $5.6 million project is fully funded by a federal border-highway safety program, as is the $2.75 million Meridian Street project. Work is scheduled to begin in mid-May, with the roundabouts open for traffic in time for the Aug. 12 opening of the Northwest Washington Fair.
Birch Bay-Lynden Road/Portal Way: A traffic light will be installed at this intersection, adjacent to an I-5 interchange between Ferndale and Blaine. The intersection will be raised to the same grade as the nearby railroad track. With added turn lanes and extensive drainage work, the project will cost $4.3 million. The work should begin in July and extend into November. There may be delays and brief nighttime closures. Drivers are encouraged to find another route.
Potter Road Bridge: The bridge over the south fork Nooksack River, between Deming and Acme, carries fewer than 1,000 vehicles a day but is the only access to the farms and homes on Hillside Road. The bridge scores lowest in the county for "structural sufficiency," county engineer Joe Rutan said, meaning it needs to be replaced more urgently than any other.
Work begins in August to build a reinforced concrete, two-lane bridge next to the existing one-lane truss bridge that is scheduled to be removed in 2015. The total cost is $9.5 million.
Boblett Street: A sidewalk will be built along the street, from Highway 543 west to Borderite Way, near the schools. The road will be reduced to one lane of traffic, controlled by flaggers, during construction hours in July and August. Project cost is $165,000.
North Washington Street: Crews will repair and widen about 800 feet of the road, from Main Street to Third Street. Work on this $750,000 project will begin in July and end in early September. The road will be closed to through traffic.
Thornton Road: A 1,000-foot section of this road, in front of Skyline Elementary School, is badly damaged and will be replaced in a project scheduled to begin and end during the school's summer break. Full project cost is $950,000. Contractors are getting bids together now. The project is the first to be funded in part by a new sales tax for road repairs, approved by Ferndale voters in February 2012. Most of the funding comes from an $850,000 federal grant.
Vista Drive: A well-traveled route from Ferndale's downtown to its residential north side will be repaired and repaved, and an old sewer line will be replaced. The city is currently seeking bids on this project, estimated at $1.2 million. Portions of Vista will be closed during construction, but businesses will remain open and accessible.
Main Street: The street will be closed between North Eighth Street and Sixth Street from July to December, as Interwest Construction, Inc., replaces a culvert with a bridge over Fishtrap Creek. The work also includes road, sidewalk and lighting improvements. The construction bid was $2.2 million.