Spectators shouldn’t have to endure an obstacle course to get downtown for a chance to cheer Ironman Coeur d’Alene athletes across the finish line June 26.
Organizers say parking is plentiful and navigating around the various closed roads, such as Sherman Avenue and Northwest Boulevard, shouldn’t be a problem as long as drivers plan ahead and stay cautious.
“It’s very well run,” said Coeur d’Alene City Clerk Susan Weathers, who is the city’s Ironman liaison. “With this being the third year of Ironman, we know what needs to be done.”
The course that stretches from Higgens Point to Liberty Lake is nearly identical to last year, so organizers are confident about parking and drivers’ ability to move easily about town.
The finish line is once again on Sherman Avenue, so Front Street will remain open, giving drivers more access to downtown. People can park in the Fourth Street parking lot and use the Third Street boat launch.
The winning Ironman competitor is expected to cross the finish line about 3 p.m., eight hours after the starting gun fires.
The 7 a.m. event also kicks off downtown as swimmers do two laps in front of Independence Point and City Beach. After stripping off their wetsuits in the City Park transition area, the athletes jump on their bikes for the 112-mile ride. Then they transition again at City Park and start the 26.2 mile run.
More than 1,800 athletes from more than 20 countries are expected for the event, which is a qualifier for 80 spots in the 2005 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, in October. Also at stake is $50,000 in prize money.
The grueling competition is expected to draw 30,000 spectators, which is similar to the number of people who pack downtown Coeur d’Alene for the Fourth of July.
The event boosts sales for downtown merchants in addition to regional hotels, restaurants and other businesses. The Coeur d’Alene Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that last year’s event brought $5 million to $7 million to the local economy.
The first street closures begin Thursday afternoon when Sherman Avenue, between Lakeside and Second Street, is shut down so workers can start erecting the finish line bleachers. These two blocks will stay closed until the Monday after the race.
To get to downtown Coeur d’Alene on race day, drivers are advised to use 15th Street as the main north-south route. Third and Fourth streets also will be open to Coeur d’Alene Avenue.
Motorists are urged to park in residential areas north of Coeur d’Alene Avenue and east of Northwest Boulevard.
Portions of Sherman, Coeur d’Alene and Lakeside avenues will be closed from 4 a.m. to midnight. Northwest Boulevard also will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., as will the Four Corners intersection of Northwest Boulevard and Government Way. Once the intersection reopens around 5:30 p.m., drivers can park at North Idaho College.
Fort Sherman residents will be routed through Stimson Lumber to Hubbard Avenue, similar to how traffic flows on July 4. Then they will have limited access to the southbound lane of Northwest Boulevard. Residents must have proof of residency to show to officers guarding the intersection.
Coeur d’Alene recently mailed road closure information to hundreds of residents and businesses along the course, and delay signs have been posted along those routes to give drivers plenty of advance notice.
Although there will be reduced lanes on U.S. Highway 95 from the Northwest Boulevard overpass to the turnoff for East Riverview Drive, the Blackwell boat launch will remain open.
East Riverview Drive and Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive will be open only to local traffic.
Residents on East Riverview Drive complained last year because of extended delays due to the bike race. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department reported that some residents had to wait up to an hour to access East Riverview Drive.Weathers said officials will try to reduce the wait.
In Post Falls, the bike race will reduce the lanes on Poleline Road from Compton Street to Huetter Road.
Post Falls Police Chief Cliff Hayes said the state Highway 41 intersection at Poleline is the biggest concern. The intersection will remain open, with flaggers directing traffic. Long delays are expected, and Hayes said drivers should opt for alternate routes.
He suggested that drivers trying to access Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls or Spokane avoid Highway 41. Instead they should use Highway 53 or take Prairie Avenue and go east or west.Hayes said congestion is most problematic when churches near Poleline let out. He said he hopes drivers are more aware of the closures and delays this year.
Huetter Road from Poleline Road to Seltice Way will be closed, except to residents, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Seltice Way from Atlas Road to Northwest Boulevard also will be closed.
Hayes is grateful that the BNSF Railway Co. gave Ironman permission to route the bike race over the railroad bridge above Seltice Way. That allows Post Falls to keep Seltice Way open so at least one main street in town isn’t affected by the race. Seltice Way is closed farther east, where it intersects with Huetter.
Sections of the Centennial Trail from Liberty Lake to Post Falls Greyhound Park and Events Center also will be closed because cyclists are using the path.
For more information about road closures and parking, call Susan Weathers at 769-2231.
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