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What's next for Hayden's traffic?

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | December 10, 2020 1:07 AM

When asked to forecast what Hayden’s traffic would look like over the next 20 years, Jennifer Martin told Hayden’s City Council the governing body is asking the right questions.

“We looked at existing (traffic patterns),” the traffic engineer for the consulting firm iteris said Tuesday night, “at the context of Hayden in the region, and we have a baseline for existing conditions. Now, we need to look at the future. How do we get to the future?”

The new comprehensive, parks and transportation plan updates — which city officials emphasize are guidelines and visions to craft policy, rather than set-in-stone provisions — call for traffic reduction measures already in the early planning stages, including roundabouts in key intersections like Ramsey Road and Honeysuckle Avenue, as well as improvements on five key intersections with Government Way and the addition of sidewalks and bicycle lanes on the city’s busier streets.

Martin also recommended adding lanes to key roads, including Hayden Avenue.

“Our recommendation is for five lanes between Huetter and Atlas,” she said, “and three lanes from Atlas to (U.S.) 95.”

To be clear, the odd number of lanes constitutes an equal number of westbound and eastbound lanes, as well as a center lane. So Hayden Avenue, under this recommendation, would run two lanes eastbound and two lanes westbound from Huetter to Atlas, along with a center turning lane. From Atlas Road east, Hayden would keep its single westbound and eastbound lanes but widen to accommodate a center lane.

“The travel model shows where demand wants to be,” Martin said, “based on land use and known travel patterns.”

While iteris made the recommendation for immediate consideration into its transportation plan update, she acknowledged that her vantage point for near-term and long-term requires a uniquely long lens.

“Near-term for this is 2030,” she told the council. “Long-term is 2040.”

Whether 10 or 20 years out — or if widening roads and adding lanes will happen at all — are questions to be answered in the years to come, which is why the city commissioned the comprehensive, parks and transportation plan updates in the first place. The city is looking to update its toolbox as it considers future projects, and city leaders say the plans will give Hayden a clearer path moving forward.

“Our plans aren’t that old,” public works director Alan Soderling told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “Being able to get (the plans) updated and get the models updated — and to tie it with overall growth and zoning — is just a great opportunity to not overbuild but not underbuild, but just build to the need. It’s a great opportunity.”

Martin said making the improvements recommended in the plan update — which also includes re-classifying certain roads from minor arterials to collectors — was all about keeping traffic manageable as the years pass.

“There are some areas you can see in yellow,” she said as she pointed to 2040 traffic projections, “where things are about the same, or maybe a little worse. But there are some intersections where we project traffic volume will be less than what we have now.”

The massive transportation plan update integrated project costs, traffic counts and growth projections, as well as considering the comprehensive and parks plan updates, while keeping the goal of prioritizing what road projects were needed, rather than what could be considered part of a wish list. Mayor Steve Griffitts said the work Martin and her team did surpassed every expectation.

“I was so proud to read this and study this, because the citizens need a blueprint,” Griffitts said. “This was specific. It had financial information. It has timetables. It’s exactly what the citizens would request from us moving forward.”

Griffitts added that, while the updated plans aren’t carved into stone, they do give planners, staff and residents a unified lens to move forward.

“The citizens deserve our planning to be as best as it can be,” he said. “This is not going to be a perfect document. It’s a working tool. But I’m really grateful for the manner in which it was prepared, presented, and that it interacted with all of our other timelines. I don’t know of any other individual city that’s done this with all of them together at the same time. This is an amazing effort and result.”