U.S. 95 changes to be discussed tonight

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COEUR d’ALENE — The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) invites the public to an open house on Thursday, Dec. 14 to learn about a project to improve safety on U.S. 95 through Bonners Ferry.

The open house will be held at Boundary County Middle School from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The open house will begin with a brief presentation on the key aspects of the project. Following the presentation, ITD staff will be available to answer any questions, project manager Ben Ward said.

“This project will improve safety for the many users of U.S. 95 by providing improved pedestrian facilities, reducing the number of approaches to the highway, and controlling snow and water drainage better,”

Ward said.

The project will be built in two phases at an estimated construction cost of $9.4 million. ITD contractors will be required to keep one lane of U.S. 95 open in each direction during the day with the option to reduce the highway to one lane at night. Access to businesses along the highway will remain open during construction, Ward said.

The first phase of the project includes improvements to the South Hill to be constructed in 2018, and the second phase includes improvements on U.S. 95 from Alderson Lane to Madison Street to be constructed in 2019.

The project will reduce U.S. 95 to two lanes on the South Hill, allowing for the designation of acceleration lanes in both directions near Ash Street to make turns onto the highway easier, especially for trucks turning left to go up the hill. These acceleration lanes can also be used to reroute traffic and avoid delays in the event of stalled rigs or crashes on the South Hill, said Dan Budd, an ITD designer for the project.

The new merging point for southbound traffic will be moved north from the Madison Street intersection to the Kootenai Street intersection. A protected crosswalk will be placed just south of the Madison Street intersection to provide safer crossing for children going to the city’s swimming pool. Getting traffic into one lane before the Madison intersection will make it safer for the many pedestrians who will cross there, Budd said.

“We want drivers approaching the Madison intersection to be looking forward at the crosswalk, not looking back over their shoulder while trying to merge into one lane,” Budd said. “Pedestrians, often children, use that intersection to cross to the local swimming pool.”

The new crosswalk will be equipped with pedestrian-activated, high-intensity lights to bring drivers’ attention to the crosswalk and allow pedestrians to cross safely, Budd said.

As part of the first phase of the project, ITD contractors also will upgrade the streetlights on the South Hill to be more efficient, and the existing sidewalk will be expanded from 5 feet to 8 feet, Budd said.

Highway improvements from Alderson Lane to Madison Street include the creation of a consistent three-lane highway with wider shoulders to accommodate bicyclists and 6-foot sidewalks separated from the highway by a grass buffer, all illuminated by new lights.

The project will also remove the signal at Alderson Lane. ITD initially considered upgrading the signal due to its age, but further analysis determined that the signal was not warranted by the volume of vehicles using it, even during peak summer traffic, Ward said.

Those unable to attend the open house may view details by visiting the project website at http://arcg.is/P584v. The website also features general responses to comments received from three meetings held by ITD during the design process. Any additional questions about the project should be addressed to Ben Ward at 208-772-1218 or Ben.Ward@itd.idaho.gov.

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