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First mile of Guide Meridian in Bellingham gets a makeover

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Date:  Monday, April 08, 2013

Contact: Dave Chesson, WSDOT communications, 360-757-5997 (Burlington)
Chris Damitio, project engineer, 360-788-7403 (Bellingham)

BELLINGHAM – Work to help reduce collisions and improve traffic along the first mile of State Route 539 is set to begin in early May.

The Washington State Department of Transportation this morning selected Blaine-based Colacurcio Brothers Inc. to modify traffic lanes and business access to help reduce collisions and ease congestion along the busiest stretch of the Guide Meridian. The contractor’s proposal to build the project was $1,685,790.

Roughly 45,000 drivers use the Guide every day to and from the Interstate 5 interchange and along the most congested section within the city limits of Bellingham. At its daily peak, the highway often seems a lot like downtown Seattle on a busy day. It’s stop and go – with plenty of stop.

“There are just too many entrances, exits and turn lanes crammed into the Guide near the I-5 interchange,” said WSDOT engineer Chris Damitio. “It’s almost like having the pit entrance and exit for the Indy 500 right at the starting line. It’s just too crowded.”

The highway has seen massive business and community growth over the years – far more than the area and the I-5 interchange were designed for when built. Improvements to the Guide farther north have improved traffic flow from the outskirts of Bellingham to Lynden.

While many drivers would like to see the interchange and this section of the Guide completely rebuilt, the funding is unavailable. WSDOT sees it as a compromise based on available funds after a couple of years’ worth of discussions with the city of Bellingham, local businesses and drivers.

“With some creative reworking of this short section of highway, we think we can cost-effectively improve traffic flow and safety,” said Damitio.

Most work will be done at night so impacts to motorists and businesses should be minimal. Work will start this spring and should be completed by the end of the summer.


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