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By User:Cacophony - Own work, CC BY 2.5, Link

Last minute switch replaced Blaine project with Thornton Street Overpass in state budget

Folks in Blaine are wondering why a $45 million project to complete an I-5 interchange was swapped out in the recent state 2016 supplemental transportation budget and replaced with the $19 million Thornton Street overpass project and a $40 million Lynden project.

An article in The Northern Light points the finger at state senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) for a last-minute state transportation budget change.

Ericksen proposed the amendment that transferred funding and said the Thornton Road and SR 539 projects had been left out of the previous budget by mistake.

“There was actually an error for last year’s projects in terms of the project list,” he said. “They used the wrong lists in the final budget, unfortunately.”

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The Blaine project would complete construction of the interchange at milepost 275 which currently only allows drivers to leave I-5 northbound and enter I-5 southbound. The project would add a northbound on-ramp and southbound off-ramp, creating an interchange that would fully serve north and southbound traffic to and from I-5.

Blaine Mayor Harry Robinson is cited in the article as saying businesses are reluctant to locate in the area due to the limited I-5 access. The article states, “City officials have been pushing for the project since 2009.”

The day after the supplemental transportation budget was approved by the legislature, Ferndale Mayor Jon Mutchler was quoted in an announcement on the city’s website,

A big thank you to our state representatives, Sen. Doug Ericksen and Reps. Vincent Buys and Luanne Van Werven, for their efforts to secure this funding. Credit should also go to City Administrator Greg Young for all his hard work chasing this down and working with legislators, including Sen. Curtis King, the chair of the Senate Transportation committee.

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The Thornton Street overpass project has been pursued by the City of Ferndale since 2008 when BNSF offered, in return for the closing of the crossing at Thornton Street, a permit for an overpass at the tracks at that location and funds to construct an access road to the roundabout. This was part of negotiations then between BNSF and the city which involved exchange of station land west of 2nd Avenue (now Griffintown Park), closing the 2nd Avenue crossing and upgrading the Washington Street crossing.

The Thornton overpass project is expected to receive traffic currently using Main Street and Washington Street to get to north and west Ferndale destinations without the risk of getting stuck at a train crossing. Estimates are the project will cost between $23.6 and $28.4 million.

While the project is currently a part of the 2016 state supplemental transportation budget approved by the state legislature, it has yet to be signed into law by Governor Inslee. Inslee has required legislators go into a special session in order to put together a balanced operating budget. Inslee has refused to sign all but a few essential bills until the legislators can provide him a balanced budget to sign.

While legislators currently do not appear to be proposing cuts to the transportation budget in order to meet this goal, it remains a possibility.

According to The Northern Light article, Ericksen said funding the Blaine interchange project would be a priority next year.

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