Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s planned appearance in Lynden on Saturday, May 7, has a swath of law enforcement and transportation officials gearing up for an influx of people to western Whatcom County.
Agencies in the area will work together through Whatcom Unified Emergency Management to coordinate site security at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds, where the event will be held, said Lt. Bob Vander Yacht, spokesman for Bellingham Police Department.
The event could prove to be a logistical challenge, especially if people try to exceed the capacity of the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds, Vander Yacht said. The venue has a capacity of 5,000.
Law enforcement will also work with the U.S. Secret Service to close streets along Trump’s route to the venue, but those closures and the route itself will not be announced for security reasons, Vander Yacht said.
“Basically, we’re going to have as many local resources as we can muster,” Vander Yacht said Friday, adding that he still wasn’t sure just how many officers would be working as a result of the event. “Our goal is to have a peaceful event, knowing there’s people who have different feelings and attitudes about different candidates.”
For people driving up from the Puget Sound region, state Department of Transportation projects will only add to the delays caused by the spike in traffic, said department spokesman Marqise Allen. Work on the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle has swelled traffic on Interstate 5, Allen said, with lines of traffic during the weekdays as long as 10 miles, and up to 5 miles long on weekends.
The SnoCo Squeeze, a bridge conservation project between Everett and Marysville, has also reduced a section of I-5 from three to two lanes, and, at times, even to a single lane. The speed limit in that area drops from 60 mph to 45 mph, Allen said.
Drivers can keep tabs on traffic this weekend by following the department’s traffic Twitter account at twitter.com/WSDOT_traffic.
“It’s difficult to know how many folks are traveling up north this weekend, but they can certainly expect a freeze in traffic,” Allen said. “The big thing for drivers headed to the Trump rally is to stay plugged in and monitor online traffic, leave early, plan ahead, and carpool if possible.”
No public event at airport
Trump’s campaign jet, dubbed by some as “Trump Force One,” plans to fly into the Bellingham International Airport after a noon stop in Spokane.
Airport Director Sunil Harman said Friday morning that officials were making plans for Trump’s arrival in his Boeing 757, the largest size plane the airport can handle. There had been no special requests at that point but he was expected to have further updates by Friday afternoon.
Harman doesn’t expect any requests that would alter plans for others flying in and out of the airport.
“We will do everything to accommodate this event without disrupting our other airline services,” he said, adding that activity at the airport is normally low on Saturday afternoons.
However, Harman is urging people not to go to the Bellingham airport in an attempt to see Trump’s plane land or take off. He said security measures will be in place that will allow only people who are either taking a flight out of the airport or are there to pick up arrivals. Other visitors to the airport will be turned away.
The extra security will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, but could be extended depending on the arrival and departure of Trump’s plane.
Harman said passengers catching scheduled flights around the time of Trump’s visit should arrive two hours early.
Reporter Dave Gallagher contributed reporting to this article.
WTA bus will reroute during rally
Whatcom Transportation Authority’s No. 26 bus to Lynden will be on its regular schedule Saturday, but drivers will take service off Front Street between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. during the Donald Trump rally. For updates, follow WTA on Twitter at @ridewta.com.