A new transportation plan for Kootenai County maps out more than 200 road projects through the year 2030 that would have an estimated total cost of $852 million. The plan for the county, where rapid growth is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, necessitating such heavy infrastructure investments, also calls for adoption by voters of a countywide $20-per-vehicle registration fee that would help pay for road projects.
The plan, called the Kootenai County Metropolitan Transportation Plan, includes $345 million in road projects that would be constructed in the next eight years. It doesnt, however, include a suggested way to obtain funding for the Huetter corridor, where an expressway is proposed from Interstate 90 north to the U.S. 95-state Route 53 junction at Garwood. The route would enable motorists to bypass the congested eight-mile stretch of U.S. 95 through the northern Coeur dAlene and Hayden areas.
The plan, a first for Kootenai County, was developed by the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO), which was formed in 2003 by federal mandate after the county surpassed a population threshold of 50,000. As of 2005, the population of Kootenai County had mushroomed to 138,000, and its expected to grow from there by another 68 percent to 232,000 in 2030, the plan says.
The purpose of the plan is to provide a blueprint for addressing transportation needs brought about by continued growth and development, says Glenn Miles, KMPOs executive director.
A large portion of the plan outlines projects for which city, county, and state transportation jurisdictions will seek funding over the next 23 years.
Miles says the financial section of the plan anticipates that Kootenai County voters will enact the proposed $20 local-option vehicle registration fee to help pay for the projects. The plan says the fee would bring in a total of $109 million through 2030 if the local-option tax were adopted early in the span of time the plan addresses. No date has been set yet for an election on the matter.
The bulk of the road construction fundsabout $742 millionwould come from existing revenue streams, including state and federal funding, local property taxes, impact fees, and special levies, Miles says.
One of the larger projects proposed in the short-term part of the plan is a new I-90 interchange at Beck Road in Post Falls, which the Idaho Transportation Department estimates will cost $16 million. The need for that new interchange was heightened by development of the Cabelas Inc. store at Post Falls. Jason Minzghor, ITDs Coeur dAlene-based project development engineer, says that project might begin in 2009.
Under a pilot program approved by the Idaho Legislature, Foursquare Properties, the developer of The Pointe at Post Falls, which is anchored by Cabelas, would be reimbursed for the cost of the interchange through sales tax the development generates.
Other big projects proposed between now and 2015, the short-term part of the plan, include:
Construction of a new I-90 interchange at Greensferry Road, in Post Falls, which the ITD estimates would cost $15 million. Minzghor says a traffic study conducted by the department has identified the need for an interchange, but hasnt developed preliminary plans for it.
Improvements to about 13 miles of state Route 97 on the east side of Lake Coeur dAlene, from I-90 south to Burma Road at Turner Bay, which the ITD estimates would cost $26 million. State Route 97, a narrow, two-lane road that snakes along the Lake Coeur dAlene shoreline, has been cited as an impediment to residential growth on the east side of the lake. The KMPO is conducting a study of the route to help determine how motorists and residents would like to see it improved, says Staci Lehman, spokeswoman for the KMPO.
A project included in the report that has been under way for several years and is nearly complete is the reconstruction of seven miles of U.S. 95 south of Coeur dAlene, from Setters Road to Bellgrove, Minzghor says. ITD estimates the total cost of that project at $37.6 million.
While the long-term road improvements through 2030 add up to $450.4 million, more than half of that total estimate is for one projecta major upgrade of U.S. 95, from Lancaster Road in Kootenai County to the Bonner County line, which ITD expects would cost $242.5 million.
The timeline for that entire project could stretch out to 2030 and beyond, but Minzghor says two portions of it in northern Kootenai County could begin this decade, if they pass federal environmental review.
ITD has committed $83 million to begin construction of a 6.7-mile section near Chilco as soon as 2008 and a 6-mile section near Athol as soon as 2009, he says.
The next most expensive long-term project would be to upgrade and widen six miles of U.S. 95 from Lancaster Road south to I-90, which ITD estimates would cost $30.4 million. Minzghor says that project is still in the idea stage and traffic studies would need to be conducted before any further planning.
Other big projects on the Metropolitan plans long-term list include:
Improvements to three miles of Government Way, in Hayden, from Hayden Avenue north to Boekel Road, including widening it to three lanes. The city of Hayden estimates that project would cost $15.9 million.
Improvements to 2.5 miles of Pleasant View Road in west Post Falls, from Riverbend Avenue to Prairie Avenue. The joint project by the city of Post Falls and the Post Falls Highway District would cost an estimated $13.8 million.
Widening three miles of Hayden Avenue to five lanes from Huetter Road east to Ramsey Road. The city of Hayden estimates the project would cost $10.5 million.
The plan also lists 75 intersections with anticipated needs for improvements through 2030 at an estimated cost of $57 million, although it doesnt separate them into short-term and long-term projects.
By far the most expensive intersection project in the plan is an interchange involving U.S. 95, Government Way, and Lancaster Road, in Hayden, a project that the city of Hayden estimates would cost $20 million.
Other proposed multimillion-dollar intersection improvements include:
Seltice Way and Spokane Street intersection upgrades in Post Falls at an estimated cost of $6 million.
Prairie Avenue and Greensferry Road intersection upgrades and signalization at an estimated cost of $4.7 million.
Burma Road and state Route 97 intersection realignment at an estimated cost of $3 million.
Estimated costs for the rest of the intersection improvements in the plan range from $51,000 to $900,000 with most in the $200,000-to-$600,000 range.
The 11-member KMPO board that adopted the Metropolitan Transportation Plan is made up of representatives of the four highway districts in Kootenai County; the county commission; the cities of Coeur dAlene, Post Falls, Hayden, and Rathdrum; the Transportation Department; and the Coeur dAlene Tribe.
In August, the KMPO adopted a recommendation that member jurisdictions begin acquiring right of way for the Huetter corridor to help relieve congestion on Highway 95 in northern Coeur dAlene and Hayden.
Although the need for the proposed high-speed corridor is mentioned in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan, funding isnt identified for it, Miles says.
There is no reasonable funding available to build it unless something different happens, he says.
The cost to obtain right of way for the Huetter corridor is estimated at roughly $350 million.
Christine Fueston, of Ruen-Yaeger & Associates, a Coeur dAlene engineering firm, says the Huetter corridor isnt more prominent in the plan because it hasnt been adopted yet into the comprehensive plans of all of the individual jurisdictions that would be involved in its development.
The Metropolitan Transportation Plan will be updated annually to reflect comprehensive land-use plan updates of the member jurisdictions, Miles adds. He says the Metropolitan Transportation Plan is designed with realistic funding sources in mind.
Statutory requirements for the plan include having a reasonable possibility of the finances being there, he says.
He says the financial section of the plan is based on an 18-year history of construction expenditures and trends in funding sources.
We expect local jurisdictions are going to have to come up with larger portions of funding on local roads than in the past, he says.
A multijurisdictional plan, however, helps prioritize investment in infrastructure and helps ensure appropriate projects are eligible for state and federal funding, Miles says.
He says the plan, even if fully implemented, wont solve all transportation problems in Kootenai County.
Miles says transportation planners also must look at expanding and improving alternatives to single-occupant motor-vehicle transportation, including mass transportation systems and pedestrian and bicycle routes.
Contact Mike McLean at (509) 344-1266 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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