March 22, 2009 in Idaho, News

Getting there: Hwy. 95 plan sparks controversy

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

A motorist waits for the light to change at the intersection of U.S. Highway 95 and Bosanko Avenue in Coeur d’Alene on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

U.S. Highway 95 through north Coeur d’Alene and Hayden can be a frustrating, congested drive virtually any day.

State and local officials have come up with ways to improve flow and safety, but some of their ideas are not being well received.

A proposal to remove the busy traffic lights at Canfield and Bosanko avenues is drawing opposition from some of the businesses that depend on the highway.

“It seems kind of crazy,” said Lorna Willey, a salesperson at Wild Birds Unlimited, adjacent to Bosanko and U.S. 95.

She said traffic flow should have been considered years ago when the area was being built commercially. “I just see it as being a big chaotic mess,” she said.

The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Idaho Transportation Board are calling for a series of changes following a yearlong study on how to improve the eight-mile corridor. The plan has 35 specific improvements costing $6.7 million that could take up to five years to install.

Removal of traffic lights at Canfield and Bosanko is drawing the most attention.

Canfield serves the heart of the commercial area at the north side of Silver Lake Mall, with Olive Garden, Borders, Bed, Bath and Beyond, TJ Maxx, Target and Ross among the businesses in the immediate vicinity. The intersection carries nearly 3,300 vehicles an hour at peak evening flow, according to a consultant report in the study.

The light at Canfield would be moved a quarter-mile north to Wilbur Avenue, and the intersection would be converted to allow left turns only for north- and southbound traffic. Bosanko would get similar turn lanes. Intersections without signals would be changed to prohibit traffic from crossing the highway.

One of the concerns is safety. Both the Canfield and Bosanko intersections “are known for their high amounts of accidents,” said Staci Lehman, a spokeswoman for the KMPO.

From 2005 through 2007, the intersection at Canfield had 27 accidents with 17 injuries while the intersection at Bosanko had 14 accidents and 15 injuries.

With those intersections closed, motorists could use Government Way or other city streets to circulate through the area. However, Government Way is only a two-lane arterial that is easily backed up.

A proposed project to widen Government Way to four lanes is listed by the city of Coeur d’Alene on its five-year street plan, but there is currently no funding available for the project, Lehman said.

The study proposes spacing traffic lights about a half-mile apart to allow for better signal timing and to speed traffic flow through the area. Currently, it takes 18 minutes on average to drive the stretch from I-90 to just south of Highway 53, the consultant said.

Valorie Hoover at Scoops, an ice cream shop on Canfield, said she doubts changes will be made because of the controversy. “I don’t think it’s really going to happen.”

Chris Grubb, owner of PostNet, next door to Scoops, said he is not concerned about the effect on customers. “People would work around it,” he said.

Also in the plan are new signals at Miles and Wyoming avenues; new turn restrictions at the intersections of Cherry, Aqua, Dakota, Lacey and Boekel to enhance safety; and additional intersection improvements.

For more information on the study and recommendations, go to www.kmpo.net/ us95access-study2.html.

Highway 26 work begins

Work starts today to replace a bridge deck on state Highway 26 across the Palouse River near the Adams and Whitman county line. By later this week, crews will have installed an alternating single-lane temporary traffic signal that will operate around the clock during the work, and the speed limit is being reduced to 25 mph. Loads larger than 14 feet wide are prohibited.

Evergreen Road closure

In Spokane Valley, Evergreen Road between Trent and Wellesley avenues will be closed through late April for sewer construction. Detours are posted on Progress and Adams roads.

Also, Thorpe Drive between Madison and Dishman-Mica roads has standing water along the south side, and signs have been placed there to warn motorists.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or by e-mail at mikep@spokesman.com

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