City and higher education leaders gathered Friday to break ground for the first stage of construction in Coeur d’Alene’s long-awaited education corridor.
This phase will include $3.7 million worth of road improvements to create the infrastructure for expansion of the growing college campus in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
The construction represents the first concrete step toward a long-term plan: a campus adjoining and including North Idaho College where several Idaho colleges will share space and services, making it easier for students to access higher education in Coeur d’Alene.
The higher education corridor “will provide opportunities for … degrees for people right here in our communities without having to travel to Moscow or to Lewiston or to Boise or to Pocatello,” said Denny Davis, board chairman of the Lake City Development Corp., the city’s urban renewal agency, at the groundbreaking ceremony.
The LCDC is funding the construction, along with $800,000 in design and project management fees for JUB Engineers. The general contractor on the project is MDM Construction of Hayden.
“A lot of us wondered if this day would really happen,” said Mayor Sandi Bloem, who championed the project for years. “Most cities would give their eye teeth today to say this space will become a place where the public can gather, where higher education can grow, where a neighborhood is protected, where the waterfront belongs to the public.”
The North Idaho College Foundation’s acquisition in July 2009 of a 17-acre former mill site adjacent to NIC was one of the final steps necessary to make the project come to fruition.
The construction will create a new entrance and exit to the college campus off Hubbard Avenue at Northwest Boulevard, easing congestion through the Fort Grounds neighborhood next to the college. Until now, the college has had one primary entrance and exit, off Garden Avenue.
The construction will add new sections of road through the mill site land and create three roundabouts to ease traffic flow. It will improve sections of River Avenue, Hubbard and College Drive with medians, landscaping, bicycle and walking lanes. A new section of Centennial Trail will be added.
Access to River Avenue will be restricted to local traffic beginning Monday and likely last until around Aug. 19, said Alan Soderling, project manager for JUB Engineers. However, he said, the project requires that access to the dike road — which provides parking for the NIC beach and for events like Art on the Green — be maintained the entire time.
There also will be periodic restrictions to Northwest Boulevard in early July when a new southbound right-turn lane is installed at Hubbard, along with a traffic signal. All parking lots on the NIC campus will remain open, Soderling said.
The schedule was designed with an eye to the return of students and staff for NIC’s fall semester. After the River Avenue section is complete, crews will move to the northern section of the project, including an extension of College Drive and improvements to Hubbard. The project is expected to wrap up at the end of October.
NIC will disseminate information about the project as construction progresses, using email alerts, a website and a webcam for updates. The website is www.edcorridor.com.