BELLINGHAM - A surprise break in the drizzly weather Wednesday, Sept. 18, gave crews a chance to pave a new right lane of northbound Meridian Street near Interstate 5.
But don't expect to be driving on the fresh asphalt right away. Contractors still need to restripe the widened road, which could be done as soon as next week. Or it might take until the end of September, if the rain returns for a while.
Since the start of this summer, the state Department of Transportation has overseen the $3 million project that aims to ease congestion and reduce the number of crashes on the street, officially State Route 539. Meridian and I-5 serve as the two main arteries for Canadian shoppers heading to Bellingham. The intersection of the two - near Bellis Fair mall and several big-box stores - has turned into one of the city's busiest.
Workers have torn up utility lines and pushed back the sidewalk between the off-ramp to northbound Meridian and Bakerview Road for the past few months. Driveways still need to be paved, but the new lane means it should be easier to access businesses on the east side of the road, said Dave Chesson, a DOT spokesman.
Sometime this month, crews plan to add a 4 1/2-inch tall center curb, like the yellow curb in the 1000 block of East Sunset Drive, that will prevent northbound drivers from turning left onto Telegraph Road - for many years the first entrance to Bellis Fair mall in that direction. DOT officials believe that will make traffic flow smoother in the area. The curb will be "low enough for fire trucks to hop it," Chesson said. Curb work could start next week.
Once the curb is in, northbound drivers would have to use the mall entrance at Bellis Fair Parkway.
The project started with a tentative deadline of the end of summer, so it's still roughly on schedule. A good chunk of the work has been done at night to make life easier for drivers.
For more information about the Meridian Street project, go to this WSDOT webpage.