The 2015 Washington State Legislature approved spending over $20 million to make improvements around the I-5 and Slater Road interchange in order to better handle current and projected traffic volumes. At the time, information was not available as to what was planned to improve the Slater Road interchange. This week the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) invited the community to provide their priorities for the project via an online survey.
Although the project title in the state budget is “I-5/Slater Road Interchange – Improvements,” according to the survey the scope of the project being currently considered extends beyond the interchange, “to Slater Road from Rural Avenue in Ferndale, through the I-5 interchange to Northwest Drive,” a 1.2-mile stretch.
Project funding by the state is $21.1 million with $2 million slated to be provided during state budget cycles during 2019 to 2021, $9 million during 2021 to 2023 and $10.1 million during 2023 to 2025.
Project area (in red) as identified by WSDOT.
2 compact roundabouts at the I-5 and Slater Road interchange and another at the intersection of Slater Road and Pacific Highway were installed through a joint effort between Whatcom County, City of Bellingham, Lummi Nation, WSDOT and City of Ferndale in an effort to manage congestion and improve safety through the area. According to WSDOT, “those interim roundabouts have successfully and safely kept traffic moving but they are due for an upgrade.”
Commercial development in the area is expected to result in increased traffic volumes to and from I-5 via the Slater Road interchange. Work is either already underway or being planned for commercial development on both sides of the interchange.
Lummi Nation is currently building a travel center on the southwest corner of Rural Avenue and Slater Road and planning for future development on property the Nation owns between Rural Avenue and I-5 south of Slater has been in the works in recent years although a specific plan has not been announced. Past conceptual designs have been included retail, entertainment and hospitality businesses.
In 2016, 149 acres of property around and on the east side of the interchange was designated as the City of Ferndale East Slater Urban Growth Area. In 2018, the City Council approved a Notice of Intent to Annex, identified as the first step in the annexation process. This allowed property owners to proceed with a formal Petition to Annex if they wanted.
Property owner and annexation proponent, Laurie Irwin, says property owners in the area have had interest from commercial developers but the area is zoned by Whatcom County as residential (1 house per 5 acres) so commercial developments are not allowed. If they could be annexed, the zoning by the City could be commercial and retail business zoning. As with the property on the west side of the interchange, commercial development in the area would be expected to result in increased traffic volumes through the interchange.
WSDOT says they hope to have design options ready to present to the community by this fall, make a design selection by next spring and begin construction by the spring of 2023 with completion expected in the fall of 2024.