Bellingham awarded $3.5M to build road to Costco, other developments

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 4, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - With Costco and other developments likely to fill hundreds of vacant acres north of the Bakerview interchange, the city has been awarded two grants to pay for a new street to access the area.

Last month, the state Transportation Improvement Board announced a $2.25 million grant for construction of what will be called Mahogany Avenue, an east-west road to connect Northwest Drive and Pacific Highway. The street will run behind the new 160,000-square-foot Costco, which is planned for West Bakerview Road across from Fred Meyer. The retailer has yet to apply for permits but has given the city a timetable that includes opening its doors in late 2015.

According to an Aug. 19 letter from Costco to the city, Costco might build 1,000 feet of Mahogany, reducing the city's share of the cost. Costco would do that if it decides it needs the road as a second access to the store, said Chris Comeau, city transportation planner.

The store's main driveway will be a new north-south street off Bakerview to be named Arctic Avenue. Costco will build Arctic on its property and cover the full cost, estimated at $2 million, Comeau said.

The city doesn't plan to build Mahogany until 2016, Comeau said. Traffic studies indicate Mahogany is not needed to accommodate the additional traffic from Costco, he said.

"If Costco wants (Mahogany), they can step up and build it if they choose to do so," Comeau said.

Costco officials have said they want to relocate because the 133,000-square-foot store at Meridian Street is too small.

The city will build Mahogany to access not only Costco but other developments in that part of the city, 262 acres of which was recently annexed to accommodate growth, Comeau said. A 142,000-square-foot shopping center is planned next to Costco, and as many as 500 homes could be built north of Mahogany.

Another grant, $1.25 million from the Federal Highway Administration approved in October, is intended for purchasing properties in the right of way, and preliminary design and engineering of Mahogany, Comeau said.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

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