Whatcom Transportation Authority to begin serving WinCo in September



Customers wait outside the WinCo Foods store Aug. 15, 2013, in the former Joe's Sporting Goods building at 300 E. Bellis Fair Parkway in Bellingham. The 24-hour grocery store has about 171 employees.


BELLINGHAM - Whatcom Transportation Authority will meet the demand for bus service to WinCo Foods on East Bellis Fair Parkway, starting in September.

In a separate vote, the WTA Board of Directors delayed a decision to relocate the bus stop in front of Macy's at Bellis Fair mall, until WTA explores how to cover the unexpectedly high cost.

The board voted unanimously on Thursday, June 19, to alter Route 15 slightly so every other run goes by WinCo, starting Sept. 22. Buses that leave downtown Bellingham at 55 minutes after the hour will head north on Meridian Street, then turn east on Telegraph Road, north on Deemer Road and then west on East Bellis Fair Parkway. Buses will continue on the parkway to Bellis Fair mall, resuming their current route.

The new loop probably will have three bus stops for the Meridian Village area, said Rick Nicholson, director of service development at WTA. But the main reason for the route change is WinCo, he said.

Rider requests for service in this area "has been probably 80 to 90 percent about WinCo since they opened last summer," Nicholson said.

Another change in bus service in the same part of town has proven more complicated. WTA staff and drivers want the Macy's stop on Route 331 relocated to East Bellis Fair Parkway because re-entering the parkway after dropping off shoppers in front of the store has become less safe.

The change will require reducing the size of the median on the parkway, just west of Meridian Street, so buses can turn left from the parkway to Meridian. That extra work brought a project budgeted at $50,000 up to an estimated $435,000. Board members wanted to ask Bellingham's Transportation Benefit District board and Bellis Fair's parent company to help pay for the work.

WTA board member and Nooksack Mayor Jim Ackerman wanted the bus stop moved as soon as possible, for the benefit of drivers and riders, even if WTA pays the full bill.

"These guys are still coming out on a dangerous corner making turns (every day)," Ackerman said. "To keep putting it off I think is just as bad as taking a gamble (on the cost)."

City officials appear willing to consider the request to the Transportation Benefit District, although Mayor Kelli Linville, also a WTA board member, said the district "is not signing a blank check."

Nicholson on Monday, June 23, said he was unsure whether Bellis Fair management would be asked to contribute.

If the WTA board approves the bus stop move by September, Nicholson said, the service change on Route 331 could go into effect by late winter 2015.

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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