The 2021 Legislative Agenda presented at the City Council meeting on November 9 was revised slightly, then presented and approved on Monday, November 23. The Agenda includes six items:
- A request to reallocate funds for the Bell Road/Peace Portal Drive project to allow construction of an at-grade, signalized intersection (instead of the grade separation), and allocation of $1.1 million more to complete funding for the project. There are serious local traffic delays on this roadway caused by the Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS). Cargo trains going through the VACIS move very slowly and block traffic across Bell Road (SR 548). This traffic backs up on to Interstate 5 at Exit 274. City supports the construction of an at-grade, signalized intersection with ` requests that the Legislature authorize a total of $2,293,400 for the project, including a project scope change to utilize the existing $1,100,000 currently allocated to the grade separation project, and an additional $1,193,400. The City is utilizing $475,000 of combined TBD revenue and WSDOT local programs funding for lane improvements that will set the stage for the signalization project.
- A request for $1.0 million to supplement $700,000 to be spent by the City on a downtown revitalization project. The project includes pedestrian-oriented amenities to reinforce downtown as the heart of the community and a tourism destination. The placemaking effort builds on the City’s “Blaine-by-the Sea” tourism branding campaign. The project replaces aging benches and trash cans; adds recycling receptacles; installs new flower planters, street furniture, bike racks; and constructs two gateway arches to anchor historic downtown. For safety and ADA accessibility, the project replaces 7,300 feet of aging and uneven sidewalk, along with the removal of select street trees that have contributed to sidewalk buckling. Concurrent updates to utilities are also expected.
- A request for $3.1 million for the reconstruction of Marine Drive. The westernmost section of Marine Drive has been closed to vehicle traffic since 2015. This segment of road serves as access to Jorgensen Public Pier and is a component of the breakwater for Blaine Harbor. Access to adjacent fish processing industries has been compromised due to the road closure. The City and the Port of Bellingham are coordinating an effort to reconstruct the roadway to ensure access to the pier and protection of the harbor. Under the proposed project, a new truck-compatible roadway will serve the industrial shipyard. A single-vehicle lane, a bike/ped lane, and a bulkhead will continue for the final 300 feet to provide access to the public pier.
- Support for local transportation funding options, specifically including an option for a second “penny per gallon” tax for border communities. The City of Blaine asks that the state provide increased local funding tools to meet city transportation needs. Being a border community, we receive visitors from Canada that utilize Blaine's infrastructure without contributing to the tax base. To address this, the state previously authorized border communities to impose a "border gas tax" with voter approval. One option to increase local funding tools to meet city transportation needs would be to authorize these communities to increase the border gas tax by another cent.
- Support for the RCO Aquatic Lands Enhancement Program funds to be allocated by the State, which would provide grant funding for the City’s Marine Park beach reconstruction project. The City of Blaine supports funding for the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) for the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA) to grant awards for the 2021-23 biennium. The City submitted a grant application and is ranked number 13 to receive an ALEA award to rebuild the beach at Marine Park. This project will create a near-shore habitat for fish and other wildlife, create public access, and protect infrastructure and park improvements.
- Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) flexibility to allow the use of REET funds for maintenance of capital facilities during recovery form the COVID-19 fiscal impacts. The City requests a minimum three-year allowance, sunsetting in December 2023, to use REET excise tax for such maintenance and preservation in addition to capital construction. During these trying times, it is important that the city maintain existing infrastructure before purchasing or constructing new infrastructure.