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‘Dysfunction junction’

by JENNIFER PASSARO
Staff Writer | May 30, 2020 1:09 AM

Go online and help shape future of traffic project

POST FALLS — Drivers, it’s time for an interchange of ideas on one of Idaho’s most dangerous locations.

The Idaho Transportation Department has launched an online public hearing for the Interstate 90-Highway 41 interchange project. The narrated presentation will be available until June 18, explaining updated plans with video and 3D graphics.

The project is designed to get public feedback on plans designed to reduce congestion and lower the risk of accidents on what has been listed as one of the most dangerous interchanges in Idaho.

“We’d like to emphasize that although the format of this meeting has changed due to the coronavirus, the design team still wants to engage with you,” said Megan Sausser, ITD spokesperson.

CHANGING DESIGN

Design has continued since the last open house in November. The new interchange is planned to be a single-point urban interchange (SPUI) — also called a “spooey.”

SPUIs control traffic at one signalized point. By using one signal — rather than two — to control movements, the SPUI design will likely be more efficient and decrease travel times, according to ITD.

Priorities for the project include building capacity for future expansion of I-90, realigning on- and off-ramps and continuing access for cyclists and pedestrians.

The interchange was designed and built in the early 1970s, when the population of Kootenai County hovered just below 40,000 people. It’s estimated at 167,000 now.

“Congestion in recent years has contributed to multiple severe and fatal crashes, especially at the westbound off-ramp,” Sausser said.

ITD hosted two open houses over the past 18 months.

“Anything they do to improve the interchange will help, especially as we continue to see growth in that area,” said Post Falls Mayor Ron Jacobson. “The hope is to get people to weigh in on the project.”

CRASH CENTRAL

Sausser said the most important takeaway from the online platform is that this is a safety project.

Between 2012 and 2017, 297 crashes were reported at the interchange.

“The interchange is ranked as one of the highest accident locations in Idaho,” Sausser said.

The design also prioritizes improving the interchange capacity. Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization board member and Coeur d’Alene City Council member Dan Gookin affectionately calls the interchange “dysfunction junction.”

“We have not kept pace in the county with transportation upgrades,” Gookin said. “It’s nice that this is finally being addressed.”

A similar interchange is being constructed at highways 53 and 95 north of Coeur d’Alene.

Sausser is eager for people in North Idaho to drive through the SPUI. The online presentation gives a visual image of what a SPUI will look like from a driver’s perspective.

ITD has already received comments through the online platform. Construction, however, is not scheduled to begin until 2023. When the comment period ends June 18, ITD will finish the design, stage construction and acquire necessary land.

The public may comment during the presentation through the online comment form or by calling 855-785-2499. The public may also visit itdprojects.org/projects/i90idaho-41 to voice their comments.

“There is plenty left to be done fine-tuning the concept we already have,” Sausser said.

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An aerial view of the I-90 and ID-41 interchange design by Idaho Transportation Department engineers shows a single-point urban interchange (SPUI), also pronounced “spooey.” The design will increase traffic capacity and safety at the congested interchange in Kootenai County.

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An early photo of the I-90, ID-41 interchange west of Coeur d'Alene has seen an increase in congestion as the county population climbs. A virtual public meeting regarding the design for a new interchange is availble online until June 18th. (Photo Courtesy of ITD)