Downtown street plan nears completion

SANDPOINT — The city is only a week away from having an official downtown streets plan on the books.

Council members met Thursday night to go over a complete conceptual package for the downtown city streets to be used once Idaho Transportation Department relinquishes control. After honing their ideas over months of public workshops and open houses, associates of SERA Architecture have turned in a 90-page guidebook detailing a wealth of options and design choices for the city. The guide’s top priorities include improved traffic flow, two-way street design, additional lighting, infrastructure and amenities and better safety for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

“I think this is a wonderful document,” Councilman Aaron Qualls said. “A lot of hard work has gone into this.”

Over the specially-scheduled council meeting, members went over the document detailing aspects of the downtown street redesign they’d like to see altered or emphasized. Of particular interest was SERA’s recommended priorities. The final priority list determined by the council will impact which improvements are initiated first and which will be put on the shelf until funding becomes available.

According to SERA planners, their recommended list of priorities first emphasize paving, infrastructure and mobility improvements along Third and Fourth avenues between Church and Pine streets.

“The Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue projects are ranked one and two because they have  been identified by city staff as improvement candidates, have  no direct relationship to the Curve project, and can be designed and constructed in the next two years,” project supervisor Allison Wildman wrote in her recommendation.

Emphasized next is a roundabout on the intersection between First Avenue and Superior Street, which includes the addition of on-street parking, grassy stormwater swales and a multi-use path along Superior. According to Wildman, this will improve safety for all street users and clarify routes.

The fourth priority is the streetscape at First Avenue and Cedar Street. Wildman said this was a more complicated project, but the addition of new lighting, trees, infrastructure, improved sidewalks and other amenities would enhance the downtown’s charm and ease of access.

A section of Church Street between First and Second avenues is next on the list. This area would see a sidewalk-widening and street improvement project.

Sixth on the list is a pedestrian and vehicle navigation project. A set of improvements that could be initiated concurrently with the Curve, the project goal is to make downtown navigation easier with the addition of new signs, color-coding and other design choices.

Finally, a Superior Street gateway project brought up the tail of the recommended priorities. This set of improvements would greet visitors into Sandpoint’s downtown with coordinated landscaping, public art and signs.

“The project has been put in this priority position because it would be a strong  candidate for the National Endowment for the Arts ‘Our Town’ grant, which could fund most of the gateway components if the corridor had a strong arts-related focus,” Wildman’s memo read.

While council members had their own ideas for areas to emphasize once downtown improvements begin, Public Works Director Kody Van Dyk caution them not to make any immediate decisions until next week’s council meeting. Wildman will attend the meeting to answer any final questions, allowing officials to have a comprehensive knowledge of the project before they make final decisions.

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