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Bellingham addresses Bakerview collisions

Bakerview Road spans 2.3 miles, and is a popular road used to reach Costco, Whatcom Community College, and Bellis Fair Mall. // Photo by Claire Ott

By Riley Kankelberg

Between 2011 and 2016, there were at least 138 collisions on West Bakerview Road. This summer, the city will introduce improvements they hope will make the street safer, Bellingham transportation planner Chris Comeau said.

According to the city of Bellingham press release, the root of the problems come from the multiple-lane crossings drivers have to go through to get to businesses, such as Fred Meyer. The improvements would restrict certain westbound turns and make others right-in, right-out only, stopping drivers from making turns across multiple lanes.

The improvements were included in the 2020-25 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). It was presented at the June 3, 2019, Committee of the Whole Agenda meeting. The TIP is adopted annually, councilmember Daniel Hammill said. This document is the financial plan for improvements in Bellingham’s transportation system.

This program went through multiple drafts and public comment periods before being approved by the City Council.

One of the projects is expected to improve safety for pedestrians and bikers through reconstruction of sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks and bike lanes, according to a Public Works Department news release. All pedestrian facilities will also be updated to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mount Baker can be seen by cars and pedestrians traveling east on West Bakerview. // Photo by Claire Ott

The other project will install a raised median. In 2017, a similar median was installed between I-5 and Arctic Avenue; this median will be a continuation and will run straight through Bakerview. The press release referenced the Federal Highway Administration, which found that raised medians reduce vehicle collisions.

According to the Planning Department press release, a median installed between I-5 and Kellogg Road in 2013 reduced collisions there. 

“This was a very successful project that met our objectives with a relatively low level of funding,” Todd Carlson, planning and engineering services manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation said.

The Bakerview project is still in its beginning stages. 

“We will not know this for certain until this project is advertised for construction bids in the spring,” Comeau said. “The intersection improvements will be constructed by an outside contractor and then followed up by city crews installing the raised median in the center of West Bakerview afterward.”

The timeline is also still in the works. While construction bids will happen in spring, the project is expected to begin in June or July.

Comeau said the construction should not cause too much congestion or backup. It will inevitably cause disruption, but will be subject to many safety controls which are designed to protect pedestrians and workers involved.

Overall, the project is predicted to improve the safety of anyone that uses Bakerview. 

“When this project is completed, both the intersection and the corridor will be safer for people walking, biking, crossing to transit stops and driving vehicles,” Comeau said.

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