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Public hearing targets Hayden's transportation woes

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | December 8, 2020 1:00 AM

HAYDEN — Shayla Skinner has a unique perspective of the ever-growing congestion along Hayden Avenue. The barista stood at her perch inside Milk and Honey drive-thru Monday as the lunch hour rush finally started to ease.

“Traffic’s gotten bad,” she observed in between coffee customers one block from U.S. 95. “Ever since they started tearing up the road across the highway, it just got worse and worse for a while. I’ve seen traffic back up on Hayden (Avenue) for blocks sometimes.”

The summer-long project re-paved and widened Hayden Avenue between U.S. 95 and Government Way, as well as adjusted right-of-way access and installed sidewalks to better protect pedestrians along what has become some of the busiest blocks in town.

It’s one of many projects designed to ease traffic constraints, and it’s the newest completed project in Hayden’s rearview mirror.

The city is now looking at future traffic reduction projects, the topic for discussion tonight at the City Council’s public hearing on updating its 2040 Transportation Plan.

“We really want people to review the plan and provide their input,” community development director Melissa Cleveland said. “We want the public to feel heard, and we want them to come to us with concerns they have. We have a good idea about the roads and intersections that need improvement, but if the public noticed we missed something, we want to hear that, and if they’re surprised to see something, we want to hear from them.”

The 2040 Transportation Plan is part of the trifecta of long-term goals receiving an update, along with the 2040 Parks Plan and the city’s overall Comprehensive Plan. All three are long-term visions; details of individual projects will get hammered out in future public hearings and planning sessions over the next 20 years, so tonight’s public hearing will not be the final opportunity for input by any means, Cleveland said.

Hayden public works director Alan Soderling said he's excited to see what he described as a plan to address a growing problem. Though the Transportation Plan was only updated seven years ago, Soderling said the explosive growth Hayden and the surrounding areas are seeing more than justify a refresh on the tools the city will use to plan responsibly for the future.

“Our plans really aren’t that old,” Soderling said. “Being able to get that document updated and get the models updated, and to tie it all with overall growth and zoning is just a great opportunity to not overbuild but not underbuild, but just build to the need. These are really long-term documents we’re updating, but that update is a great opportunity for us to align all of those needs together.”

Those needs aren’t limited to Hayden Avenue. The Transportation Plan — as well as the city’s overall Comprehensive Plan — is looking at key intersections all across Hayden, from the corner of Prairie and Government Way to Miles Avenue to hotspot intersections along Honeysuckle Avenue, the latter a likely home for a new roundabout.

With public support, the city will look to ease traffic and reduce speed through roundabouts, traffic lights and other tools.

But Hayden Avenue intersections litter the Transportation Plan’s target list. Traffic continues to grow on Atlas Road, turning to Hayden Avenue for an escape. Businesses continue to pop up on Hayden Avenue near U.S. 95, and the four-way stop at Hayden and Ramsey Road has been the site of at least three accidents in the last eight weeks, including a rollover.

Accidents at the intersection are by no means a new problem: Thursday marks one year since a hit-and-run left resident Steve Walson seriously injured in the Hico gas station parking lot, one of two business lots drivers have used to bypass traffic, rather than safely wait to maneuver through the four-way stop.

Hayden city clerk Abbi Sanchez said that while the City Council is happy to hear input at tonight’s meeting, that input will have to be delivered virtually. COVID-19 protocols are severely limiting in-person gatherings, so those who wish to voice their concerns must call Sanchez at 208-772-4411 no later than 3 p.m. to sign up.

Those wishing to view the meeting — as well as the 2040 Transportation Plan — can visit the city’s website at cityofhaydenid.us.

Before Skinner went back to preparing her next customer’s coffee, she said she hopes traffic throughout Hayden doesn’t become the logjam she watched during that construction project over the summer.

“We need to find a solution,” she said. “People were starting to turn around and go back up the street to find a better way to cross (U.S. 95). We have to do something about this.”

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Mid-day traffic piles up Monday at the corner of Highway 95 and Hayden Avenue. A brewery and a Dairy Queen are just two businesses scheduled to hit the Hayden Avenue landscape. The public hearing at tonight's Hayden city council meeting will look to gather additional voices about managing the city's growing traffic problems over the next 20 years. (CRAIG NORTHRUP/Press)