Work could begin as early as next spring on a major street realignment to relieve traffic congestion in downtown Sandpoint.
The Idaho Transportation Board on Thursday voted to expedite the $7.5 million project, known as “The Curve.” The state will build a more direct, graceful route for U.S. 2 through the city’s core.
Highway 2 comes into Sandpoint from the west, loops awkwardly through downtown on one-way streets, then heads north toward Bonners Ferry along U.S. 95.
Now that the Highway 95 Sand Creek Byway is nearly completed past downtown, Sandpoint city leaders want to see a better alignment for Highway 2 traffic. That will free up Pine Street, First Avenue and Cedar Street to return to use as city streets.
The new Highway 2 route will be a couplet between Fifth and Sixth avenues and Lake and Cedar streets on the west side of downtown. Eastbound traffic will flow one way northbound on Fifth Avenue, while westbound traffic will arc along a new alignment following an old railroad right of way.
Prior to Thursday’s vote, no construction date had been set for the work. Now construction is expected to begin in 2013. The board is scheduled to finalize funding for the project in September, when it votes on its five-year project plan.
Completing The Curve will achieve a city goal of making downtown Sandpoint more accommodating for pedestrians, bicyclists and two-way traffic, Mayor Marsha Ogilvie said.
“We’re all very excited about all of this,” Ogilvie said Thursday. “And I think it will be a huge asset to the downtown businesses as we move forward.”