For Gary Butler, life on Government Way was a bit like life on a country lane - lots of trees, too much dust.
It never occurred to him that in getting rid of one, he’d lose the other.
“What can I say … it’s progress,” he said.
Contractors this weekend dug up 37 trees between Interstate 90 and Harrison Avenue in preparation for a $1.7 million project to widen the street to five lanes.
“We only took down the ones we had to,” said Coeur d’Alene Mayor Al Hassell. “We needed to do it to fix the street.”
That’s apparently what city residents want, he said. They overwhelmingly passed a $9 million bond issue in January 1994 to cover most of the cost of last year’s Ramsey Road improvements, next year’s repairs to East Sherman and the Government Way project, which will begin Wednesday.
Project plans call for adding a street light at the intersection with Harrison, and redesigning the street light at Ironwood Drive. A turn lane will run through the entire segment.
The nearly 13,000 vehicle trips a day along the 4,000-foot stretch is too much for a two-lane road - especially when there are businesses on each side of the street, city engineers said. New development citywide means the north-south route could someday see 40 percent more traffic.
Already, Government Way is a popular route from downtown to the north, said City Engineer Gordon Dobler. “The volume dictates we need to make it wider.”
Butler agrees. But he’s less enthusiastic that the giant locust tree in his front yard had to come down to make room.
“You sort of get used to trees being there,” he said.
Karen Hinson, the city’s urban forester, said the city will replace about 30 of the trees - provided there’s a place to plant them and residents are willing to care for them.
The replacement trees will be 12 to 15 feet high. Existing trees were about 40 feet high.
“It’s always a trade-off,” Hassell said.
But mild disappointment at the loss of foliage does not diminish the eagerness among some Government Way residents to get the repairs under way. About 40 businesses and residents along Government Way chipped in nearly $200,000 of the project cost through a local improvement district.
They’ve been frustrated by southbound cars kicking up dust plumes as they roll onto the unpaved shoulder to get around traffic turning left.
“If you lived around here, you’d understand,” said Butler, from his home at 1305 Government Way. “It’s just like living on a dirt road.”
Others are sick of the congestion.
“I’ve been living with this mess a long time,” said Kathleen Tomick, at 1423 Government Way. “The tradeoff is worth it.”
Of course, she admitted, “I didn’t lose any of my trees.”
City officials are urging drivers to avoid Government Way as much as possible beginning Wednesday. Drivers with business on the street should access it from any of the east-west routes.
The street will remain open during most of the project period, Hassell said. Alternate routes will be posted during temporary closings.
Construction is scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day.