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Getting There: Trails, bike lanes part of N. Idaho vision

Opening of the Prairie Trail in the Coeur d’Alene area last summer – a complement to the Centennial Trail between Spokane and North Idaho – is part of a push to expand non-motorized transportation in Kootenai County.

Residents are invited to help plan trails, bike lanes, sidewalks and crossings to improve the opportunities for getting around without a motor vehicle in North Idaho.

The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is coordinating transportation improvements in the area, has launched a regional “non-motorized transportation plan,” and wants the public to provide input. A survey has been posted online at the organization’s Web site, Residents are asked to complete the form by Friday.

The goal is to put the region in line for federal funding for trails and bike lanes. A comprehensive plan would help Kootenai County transportation agencies qualify for federal grants, which might become available under a new transportation bill up for approval this year.

Last month, about 40 residents turned out for an initial planning meeting, including representatives from the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation, Safe Routes for Schools and Post Falls School District.

“We want to get feedback on what the public would like to see,” said Staci Lehman, spokeswoman for the planning organization.

Charlie Miller, manager of the Centennial Trail foundation, said the Coeur d’Alene region is seeing greater demand for non-motorized routes, and his group would like to see a major expansion in the region’s trail system. He said trails not only allow an alternative to motor vehicles, they also are important resources for recreation and tourism.

“We are really excited in bringing a lot of different folks together, stakeholders, different entities,” he said. “We can proactively put these great facilities in to really allow people to use human-powered transportation more efficiently.”

At the top of the wish list for trail projects is a route connecting the Centennial Trail terminus at Higgens Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes near Rose Lake. The route would run near Interstate 90 and then ascend to Fourth of July Pass on forest roads, dropping down the pass along I-90.

Miller also is pushing for the Idaho Department of Transportation to include a bike trail as part of improvements to U.S. Highway 95 from Garwood to Sagle; creation of new trails on rail lines as they are abandoned by railroads; and addition of a north-south trail between Rathdrum and Post Falls or Coeur d’Alene.

Last July, the trail foundation in North Idaho opened a new five-mile trail on a former rail line from Beebe Boulevard in northwest Coeur d’Alene to Huetter Road at Big Sky Drive. The trail passes the new Kroc Center, Bluegrass Park, Ramsey Park, Lake City High School, Woodland Middle School, Skyway Elementary School and other parks. The project was funded and managed by the foundation, which owns the route, Miller said.

The non-motorized transportation plan won’t be limited to trails. It is also being written to include bike lanes, sidewalk improvements and safer crossings.

“I think this plan will be a catalyst for trails down the road,” Miller said.

Local projects, federal funds

Money from the federal government’s economic stimulus plan apparently is going to be used on four projects in the Spokane area: expansion of the Fish Lake Trail southwest of Spokane; a new bridge on Havana Street over the BNSF rail line near Trent Avenue; a bridge project in Spokane County on Rutter Parkway; and resurfacing of Sprague Avenue from Evergreen to University roads in Spokane Valley.

The $10.4 million for the projects is being awarded through the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, which coordinates federal transportation spending in the Spokane region.

Speed reduction

An emergency speed limit of 35 mph was ordered on a section of state Highway 21 between Curlew State Park and Keller River Road in Ferry County beginning today to protect the road surface during thawing temperatures. The reduction will be in place until further notice.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or by e-mail at

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.