Proposal: Reduce speed, parking on Samish Way near Galbraith

Whatcom County is considering lowering the speed limit and restricting parking on a stretch of Samish Way near Galbraith Mountain.
Whatcom County is considering lowering the speed limit and restricting parking on a stretch of Samish Way near Galbraith Mountain. The Bellingham Herald

Whatcom County officials will consider reducing speeds and limiting parking near a popular access to the mountain-biking trails on Galbraith Mountain.

The County Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday, Sept. 29, on reducing the speed limit from 50 mph to 35 mph on a 0.6-mile stretch of Samish Way around Galbraith Lane.

On the same night, council will hold a separate hearing on whether to create a no-parking zone on the north side of Samish Way within 500 feet of Galbraith Lane.

The hearings will begin shortly after the meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the courthouse, 311 Grand Ave.

County staff proposed the changes after hearing the safety concerns of nearby residents, county engineer Joe Rutan said.

“The number of cars being parked on the shoulders limit drivers’ ability to see pedestrians,” Rutan said. “This along with the high volume of pedestrians and bikes in the area warrant the lower speed limit.”

The trails have become increasingly popular the past few years, a county memo to the council said. Parking for bicyclists can no longer be handled by the small city lot on the east side of Lake Padden Park, intended originally for use by people going into the park.

A member of the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition said his group came up with the idea of reducing parking and the speed limit near Galbraith Lane. The WMBC manages the biking trails on Galbraith Mountain.

Cars on the north shoulder of Samish Way block the sight lines for drivers trying to turn from Galbraith Lane onto Samish Way, said Eric Brown, WMBC’s trail director.

That intersection is also dangerous because of the faster speed limit and bicyclists not having the benefit of a shoulder on either side of Samish Way, Brown said.

“The last thing we want to see is someone get hit by a car,” Brown said. “Our goal is also to be good neighbors. We’re responsible for all that traffic.”

A long-term solution — more parking for Galbraith Mountain — is years away, county Parks Director Mike McFarlane said.

County officials are talking with Polygon Financial, the major property owner at Galbraith, to determine where a parking lot and trailhead might be sited.

City Parks Director James King said Bellingham is working with the county to “explore the options” for more parking at Galbraith.

“Nothing has been worked out at this time,” King said.

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