City transportation projects to improve local traffic flow

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David Sims Guest Opinion

There are a number of transportation-related projects that the city is working on, including expanding our local street system to reduce congestion on Highway 95.

When the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) performed their initial study of the South Hill section of Highway 95 in 2013, they found that only 24 percent of the South Hill traffic is through traffic, with the rest of the traffic being local traffic or traffic with a destination in Bonners Ferry. Some of the congestion on the highway is caused by the limited connectivity of our local street system, requiring use of the highway for even short trips. For example, there is no way to travel from Alderson Lane to the middle school without traveling onto the highway.

In order to look at ways to increase off-highway connectivity, the city successfully applied for a grant in 2017 to fund a transportation plan. The plan was developed in 2018 and adopted by the city in the spring of this year. The plan includes a capital improvement plan that identifies a number of key projects to improve the off-highway connectivity of our local street system. The city has already taken steps to complete two of those connections, Solomon to Wilson Street and Garden Lane to Fry Street.

The Garden Lane to Fry Street project will connect the Alderson Lane neighborhood to Fry Street, which ends at the middle school parking lot. The school district constructed a gravel road a number of years ago for bus travel in this area, but the road is currently gated. The school district granted the city a street right-of-way so we can construct a paved street with an alignment similar to the current gated road. The city applied for a grant from the Local Highway Transportation Assistance Council (LHTAC) last fall, and was successful in receiving funding for the project. Design will start this fall by city engineer Mike Klaus, and construction will take place next year.

The city has also secured a right-of-way from Wilson Street (off of Augusta Street, next to the Bonners Ferry Apartments) to Solomon Street (next to the Senior Apartments). This future street will connect the neighborhoods from Madison to Augusta Street, and the Valley View elementary school with the Bauman/Eisenhower Street neighborhoods. The city has asked the Bonners Ferry Urban Renewal Agency to form a new district in this area to help fund the street construction costs. The formation of the new district is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and it will enable funding for the street as development takes place in the new district.

For more information about these two projects, please contact City Hall.

There are a couple of items that I would like to mention about the ITD Highway 95 project. Some of the sidewalks will be separated from the travel lanes by buffer strips that are approximately five feet wide. You can see some of them being constructed now. ITD will be installing underground sprinklers and planting grass in the strips as part of the project. The City has committed to mowing the strips, which will be a great improvement over the previous situation.

The streetlights that will be installed in the residential section between Van Buren and Madison Street will be dimmable, and set to a lower light level than those in the commercial section of the project. This will help to preserve the residential character of the neighborhood, while still providing adequate levels of the lighting on the highway.

David Sims is the mayor of Bonners Ferry.

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