January 4, 2009 in Idaho, News, Region

Changes proposed for Highway 95

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Traffic waits to cross U.S. 95 in Coeur d’Alene at Kathleen Ave. Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008. The intersection is one of the places where traffic snarls and a place where a new study recommends changes to the traffic flow. A new study recommends several million dollars in changes to streamline U.S. 95 in Coeur d’Alene.
(Full-size photo)

Transportation and planning groups in North Idaho hope they’ve come up with a way to improve safety and access and ease traffic flow on busy U.S. Highway 95 north of Coeur d’Alene without breaking the bank.

In July 2006, the Idaho Transportation Board considered a proposal to close some Highway 95 intersections between Appleway and Wyoming avenues. Three of the intersections were among the top 10 highest-accident locations in Idaho’s five northern counties.

Concerns expressed by municipal and business representatives in North Idaho, however, caused the board to instead request a study of ways to increase mobility while maintaining safety on Highway 95 from Interstate 90 to Wyoming Avenue. The board called for the Idaho Transportation Department to develop that study, in conjunction with the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization and North Idaho municipalities.

“The US-95 Transportation Access Plan and Mobility Study” is the result. An open house Tuesday offers the public the chance to review the recommendations.

The study suggests changes that range in price from installing turning restrictions at individual intersections for $40,000 apiece, to adding turning lanes at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars. It calls for removing traffic signals at two intersections – Bosanko and Canfield avenues – and installing signals at four other intersections: Wilbur, Miles and Wyoming avenues and Lancaster Road. It recommends preventing traffic from making left turns onto the highway at numerous other intersections and installing new turning lanes to ease the flow of traffic.

If all the changes were made, they would cost about $6.7 million, according to the study conducted by David Evans and Associates and administered by the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Making any changes depends on funding, though, and none of that money is “identified at this time,” said Andrea Storjohann, an assistant district engineer with the ITD. Funding could come from several sources, including federal, state or local governments, but “nothing is set up as a project at this point,” she said. The next step, following the public open house, is for the study to be considered by the transportation board, Storjohann said.

“It sounds like it’s going to be a case of piecing a puzzle together,” said Staci Lehman, public education and information coordinator for the planning organization, of the funding possibilities. “There hasn’t been a plan put together on how to fund it. It’s kind of like every other project out there right now.”

Reaction to the plan among business and property owners involved in the process is mixed. Some applaud the installation of new signals they say will increase safety. Others decry the potential damage to their businesses that might come from turning restrictions.

Alan Golub, who owns property near Lancaster and Highway 95, said 12 people have died since 1992 at that intersection, which currently doesn’t have a traffic signal. Also, he said, children in Hayden can’t cross the busy highway to get to a park on the city’s west side.

“I support the improvements on Lancaster,” Golub said. “That’s an absolute killer of an intersection.”

But Rich Morey, general manager of R&L RV Sales and Service, said changes proposed at the intersection of Lacey Avenue and Highway 95 will damage his business. Lacey that would have turn restrictions, under the proposal. Morey’s customers would not be able to turn left onto the highway from his business. Instead they’d have to turn right, go to the nearest signal and turn around. Morey said many of his customers drive rigs up to 40 feet long, which are difficult enough to maneuver without turning restrictions.

“To put in frontage roads along 95 I believe is the proper way to fix the thing,” Morey said. “We located out here because 95 supplied us with traffic and gave shoppers easy access to our business. Restricting that will restrict our business. That’s not fair.”

Storjohann said the ITD wants to hear from the public because those comments could alter the final report. “The study’s not complete until after the public information meeting,” she said.

Contact Alison Boggs at (208) 765-7132 or alisonb@spokesman.com.

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