Highway 41 Landowners Left In Lurch Plans To Widen Road Put Development On Hold
Try planning a building without knowing exactly where to put it.
That’s basically what developers are facing along state Highway 41.
No one - including the Idaho Transportation Department - knows when the 7-mile link between Post Falls and Rathdrum will be widened, and no one knows how much right of way the highway will need.
“We wouldn’t be able to predict how long it would take to get funds to reconstruct the road, but as soon as we do, we’d look at widening Highway 41 and making it more modern,” said Scott Stokes, a district engineer for the department.
Elmer Smith, an engineer for Norm’s Utility Contractors, has a client who wants to subdivide property on Highway 41.
“His application would involve some improvements along Highway 41, but no one seems to be able to tell us what the improvements would need to be,” Smith said.
The Transportation Department would like to make some construction plans, Stokes said, and has been discussing what will happen to the road with local agencies such as the Post Falls Highway Department, the county, developers, Post Falls and Rathdrum.
So far, Post Falls, the county and one developer have made draft proposals for the Highway 41 corridor.
“Highway 41 is busy and it’s getting busier,” said Post Falls City Councilman Clay Larkin. “Everyone’s kind of throwing things on the table, and what will come of this is a few public meetings down the road.”
A committee representing the Post Falls planning department, residents and the planning and zoning commission recommends making Highway 41 an urban road from Seltice Way to Poleline Road. The highway would have five lanes - a center turn lane and two travel lanes on either side - swales, curbs, gutters and sidewalks.
From Poleline Road to at least Prairie Avenue, the committee recommended making the highway a rural road, with more limited access, no curbs or gutters and more swiftly moving traffic.
On Highway 41, Prairie Avenue is the northern end of Post Falls’ area of impact - the area which the city predicts it may annex within several years, said associate city planner Collin Coles.
The urban section would look similar to Seltice Way in downtown Post Falls, Sprague Avenue in the Spokane Valley and Division Street in Spokane, Smith explained.
“I think that (Post Falls’ plan) is the right approach,” Smith said.
Coles emphasized that none of the plans are final, they’re only ideas being discussed with the Transportation Department.
The county’s proposal limits access to Highway 41, allowing for a swift flow of traffic. That would give the highway more rural standards as recommended by the Post Falls committee for the stretch north of Poleline Road.
It also calls for all buildings to be set back 50 feet from the edge of the right of way. The right of way is at least 100 feet along the highway, said Post Falls Planning and Building Director Gary Young.
The 50-foot setback would greatly restrict what property owners along the highway can do with their land, said Post Falls Planning and Zoning Commissioner Larry Gilman.
“I think that if folks who own property out there discover what the county wants to do, there would be quite a ruckus,” Gilman said.
The Post Falls plan, by comparison, increases the right of way to 110 feet and does not require the additional setback.
“They need to have two standards: one from the freeway to Poleline, and one from Poleline to Rathdrum where they can do what they’ve been talking about,” Smith said. “I don’t see anything wrong with the county’s proposal - it’s just not very site-specific.”
A planning consultant, J.P. Stravens Planning Associates, independently came up with more ideas for Highway 41.
Jim Stravens represents landowners along the highway, including Jacklin Land Co., which owns 743 acres fronting the highway - more than any other landowner.
One of the two ideas he’s been examining would rezone as commercial a strip of land on either side of the highway from Mullan Avenue to Wyoming Avenue.
Rezoning land from agriculture to commercial would greatly increase its value.
The other idea would keep much of the land along highway 41 in agriculture, with two clusters of commercial development around the highway’s intersections with Prairie Avenue and Hayden Avenue.
Stravens suggests possibly having a technology park between the two commercial areas. The park would be reached from Hayden or Prairie avenues and would not add any other access roads to Highway 41.
“The bottom line is all these proposals have to be studied, and we have to find the best solution,” Stravens said. “We’re not to the point where we’re ready to say to the county, ‘This plan solves everybody’s problems.’
“All those things (the different ideas) need to be kicked around some more.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of Highway 41 corridor area