Local

Holly, State streets in Bellingham to get facelifts

Motorists drive down Holly Street on Friday, Sept. 11, in Bellingham, Wash. The city is considering several changes to Holly, including possibly replacing a traffic lane with a wide bike lane that also would have extra space between the lane and parked cars.
Motorists drive down Holly Street on Friday, Sept. 11, in Bellingham, Wash. The city is considering several changes to Holly, including possibly replacing a traffic lane with a wide bike lane that also would have extra space between the lane and parked cars. The Bellingham Herald

Two of the busiest downtown thoroughfares will look dramatically different in the coming years, after the city completes makeovers planned for Holly and State streets.

A design proposed for North State Street, from York Street to the roundabout at Wharf Street, will take an amount of money and time that hasn’t been identified yet. Holly Street will be completed as early as mid-2016 at an estimated cost of at least $1.5 million.

How much more the Holly Street project will cost depends on how much the city wants to invest in making it easier for bicyclists to ride safely down the relatively narrow three-lane street.

City officials will seek public input on bicycle options this fall. Upgrades for bicyclists on Holly ranked fifth on a list of 186 priorities in the city’s 2014 bicycle master plan.

The first idea under consideration is to replace one of the lanes of vehicle traffic with an extra-wide, protected bicycle lane.

“We’re chewing on that right now,” city project engineer Freeman Anthony told the City Council on Aug. 31.

Council will consider a number of bicycle options, along with their cost, early next year, Anthony said.

Other work on Holly will include extending the curbs at the intersection with Bay Street to improve pedestrian safety, better compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a fresh coat of pavement. Some smaller cosmetic improvements will be added, and any trees taken out are likely to be replaced, Anthony said.

“There’ll be a fair amount of work, and that’ll be a bit disruptive — OK, a lot disruptive,” Anthony told the council.

Officials will push to do the work from late winter through the spring, to try to avoid disruption to businesses during the busier summer months, Anthony said.

Council member Michael Lilliquist used the discussion of Holly to tout the State Street plan, unveiled on the city’s website in August.

State St rendering - holly chestnut block
This rendering of a conceptual plan for State Street between Holly and Chestnut streets shows diagonal parking, widened sidewalks and a bicycle lane set apart from vehicle traffic. City of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The plan takes advantage of a generous 80 feet of city-owned right of way across State Street, calling for widened sidewalks in some places to make room for artwork, performance spaces or outdoor seating for restaurants.

It also converts some of the parallel parking to diagonal, and adds more curb extensions, such as the ones going in now at State and Laurel streets.

The design concept, which will serve as a starting point for future construction work, also includes a wider bicycle lane with extra stripes of paint to separate bicyclists more from traffic and parked cars.

The plan is designed to be flexible, said Katie Franks, a development specialist with the city planning department.

“We made a huge effort to meet with all stakeholders — the property owners, business owners and residents on State — to find out what they needed,” Franks said. “Before we do actually start designing a plan or anything that would be built, we’ll be going back to the stakeholders. Depending on how far into the future this is, there may be a whole different scene on the street.”

There may not be opportunity for much input from the general public, however.

“It really depends on what’s going to get built,” city transportation planner Chris Comeau said.

City staff is not required to get council approval for a road project if it doesn’t remove any parking. The plan in its current form adds 10 spaces along its nine-block length.

Whatever gets built is intended to make State Street more of a inviting atmosphere. That may mean more trees and roomier sidewalks, but the two lanes for traffic, while narrower, would remain intact. The flow of buses and other vehicles shouldn’t slow down, officials said.

The plan’s goals were driven by the businesses along State Street, Franks said.

“It is a thoroughfare,” she said, “but they would like it to become more of a series of places.”

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamPolitics.

  Comments