Expect delays: busy summer for roadwork in Whatcom County


Birch Bay Const PAD

North Sky Communications workers dig a hole for a new telephone pole during road construction at the corner of Birch Bay Lynden Road and Portal Way in Birch Bay Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The project, which includes a new traffic light, upgrading of the railroad crossing and the addition of turn lanes, should be finished in July.


Whether repaving a road or replacing a bridge, crews will work on transportation projects all over Whatcom County from now until the fall. Drivers should be aware of the delays and sometimes the detours these projects will require.

One project that's already been backing up traffic is the reconstruction of the Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Portal Way intersection, just off Interstate 5 east of Birch Bay. Flaggers are directing traffic through the intersection, and delays can be long, said Joe Rutan, Whatcom County assistant public works director.

"If you have the opportunity to take Grandview, do," Rutan said.

Reconstruction of the intersection, which includes a new traffic light, will cost $2.3 million. BNSF Railway will improve the nearby crossing, possibly before the end of May. Once the crossing work begins, Birch Bay-Lynden Road will be closed for up to three weeks.

Work on the intersection will continue until October or November.

Here's a rundown of other road projects in 2014, organized by jurisdiction. Cities not mentioned reported no major projects for this year. Construction costs are given. State project costs include engineering, design and other costs.


James Street Road: Orchard Drive to Woodstock Way will be closed from July through December so crews can replace two deteriorating bridges with a single new bridge, which will span a new channel for Squalicum Creek. The cost estimate is up to $3.5 million, all of it federal money.

Chestnut-Bay Bridge repair: The L-shaped bridge just off the former Georgia-Pacific site will be closed from September to December. This bridge project is also fully federally funded, at $2.2 million.

Bill McDonald Parkway: The road will be closed during the day from June to September, from 25th Street to Douglas Avenue. The road will be rebuilt and sidewalks added while Western Washington University is less busy. The $1 million budget is funded by a voter-approved city sales tax for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements.

North Shore Road: Projects to reduce the phosphorus pollution entering Lake Whatcom have become a part of the city's routine. The ditch along the road will be improved on the northeast side of the lake, from Britton Road to the city limits, to better catch storm runoff. North Shore Road will be reduced to one lane. The project, to cost an estimated $500,000, will take place in July and August.

McLeod Road: This road off Meridian Street near I-5 will be closed for two weeks this summer to replace the culvert over Baker Creek. The site is next to Best Western Heritage Inn, about 200 feet south of Telegraph Road. The project cost is about $400,000.

Routine repaving is scheduled for four streets in Bellingham: Hawthorne Road from Chuckanut Drive to Fieldston Road, 14th Street from Garden Street to Taylor Avenue, East Kellogg Road from Meridian Street to Deemer Road, and Electric Avenue from York Street to Flynn Street. The total cost is $2 million. Drivers will face delays at these locations, which will be reduced to one lane. The work is scheduled from July through October.

Water-main replacement and rain gardens: These two projects, to cost $1.4 million and $500,000 respectively, are happening in multiple locations. Traffic will be reduced to one lane, directed by a flagger, in work areas. For locations, go to cob.org and enter "raingardens" or "water main replacement" in the search box.


Nooksack River bridges on Interstate 5, Ferndale: Workers will paint the bridges from May 27 until November. Work is weather dependent and may need to resume in spring 2015. Lanes will be narrowed, and the speed limit reduced to 60 mph. Occasional lane closures will be scheduled for nighttime hours. The project cost is $4.6 million.

Lynden border crossing: The Canadian border crossing will remain open throughout the expansion of northbound Guide Meridian to three lanes, to accommodate a new Canadian customs station. The work is scheduled to begin in June, and the total cost is $6.89 million, according to the Department of Transportation. Traffic delays will be no more than 10 minutes, DOT said.

Cameras and message board on Guide Meridian: Work began earlier this month and continues until Labor Day. Lane closures between Bellingham and Lynden won't affect traffic much on this four-lane state highway. Crews are installing 12 traffic cameras, a weather station and a message board on northbound Guide Meridian. Two cameras also will be installed on Highway 9 near the Sumas border crossing. The total project cost is $2.83 million.

Highway 9 paving: Flaggers will guide traffic through one open lane on the highway, between Mount Baker Highway and the Skagit County line. Work is scheduled to begin in June or July. The total cost is $2.5 million.


Potter Road Bridge: The one-lane truss bridge over the south fork Nooksack River has the lowest structural rating in the county. The bridge will be replaced with a two-lane concrete bridge for access to Hillside Road. South fork tubers are asked not to use this bridge for entering or exiting the river. Traffic impacts will be minor; the construction cost is $6.4 million.

Saar Creek Bridge: South Pass Road will be closed just past Frost Road this summer to replace the bridge over Saar Creek. Work must be completed before the start of school, so if a federal permit isn't granted by the end of June, the project could be postponed. The cost is $350,000.

Hannegan Road: Four Mile Creek Bridge will be reduced to a single lane during repairs that are likely to be scheduled for mid-summer. The cost will be borne by the contractor, who is following up work done a year ago. The bridge may be closed for up to 48 hours during construction.

Stormwater in Geneva: The county also has a project intended to protect Lake Whatcom from phosphorus. Phase 2 of a stormwater project at Fremont Street and Coronado Avenue starts in July and could extend into November. The construction cost, including Phase 1 in 2013, is $1.1 million.

Chip seal: The county's annual road maintenance will focus on 87 miles of roads north of Lynden and east of Ferndale. Some roads scheduled for chip sealing will get a thin layer of asphalt first. The total cost is almost $3 million. The county usually gives notice when it begins a new section.


Church Road: The road is closed until the end of October from Main Street to Thornton Street for a complete rebuild, including sidewalks. Construction costs are $4 million.

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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