Officials lay out project options

SANDPOINT — A modest number of community members turned out Thursday to weigh in on proposed Schweitzer Cutoff Road improvements.

By 5:30 p.m., about 25 people had signed in and submitted comments for the project with more arriving for the last half-hour of the open house, according to J-U-B Engineer associates. Each visitor had an opinion on the recommended improvements, including a roundabout at the intersection between Boyer Avenue and Schweitzer Cutoff Road.

“From my perspective, reactions have been fairly positive,” J-U-B Engineer associate Jay Hassell said.

The project is designed to address large trucks traveling in Schweitzer Cutoff Road’s westbound lane. During periods of heavy traffic, the trucks sometimes cause delays and back up vehicles while they wait to make left turns onto Boyer Avenue. The improvements address this with a roundabout at the intersection. This addition would calm traffic and allow trucks to initiate their turns without needing to wait for oncoming traffic to pass.

A light signal was originally proposed for the intersection. However, J-U-B engineers included a roundabout in their primary plans based on a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The results concluded that roundabouts in similar intersections reduce fatal crashes by 90 percent, injury crashes by 76 percent, pedestrian crashes by 30 to 40 percent and bicycle crashes by 10 percent. In addition, they prove especially effective in at-grade intersections and easily handled daily changes in traffic volume.

The project also calls for increased bicycle and pedestrian amenities like sidewalks, bicycle lanes, curbs and gutters. The roadway would be resurfaced and the grade flattened. Finally, planners suggest a possible turning lane for the stretch of road west of the Schweitzer Cutoff and Boyer intersection.  

A project originally initiated by the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council in 2006, the Schweitzer Cutoff Road improvements were put on hold due to lack of funding. Work on the project is expected to begin in 2015.

In the immediate future, project planners will compile the data collected at the open house and apply them to current concepts. Residents will then have another chance to weigh in on progress at a public hearing later this year.

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