Hearing explores road construction options

SANDPOINT — The community has a chance to weigh in today on the future of Schweitzer Cutoff Road at a public hearing regarding proposed improvements .

The hearing is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. at Sandpoint City Hall. Residents are welcome to drop by any time between those hours to talk with staff, offer opinions or suggestions and learn more about the project. This will be the final opportunity to file an official comment on the project. Those who can’t attend can still offer formal commentary until Dec. 11 by contacting Bryant Kuechle at 800-252-8929 or at bk@langdongroupinc.com.

The project is slated to improve Schweitzer Cutoff Road from near the Old Boyer Road intersection and past Boyer Avenue to a point just west of U.S. 95, according to project officials. Construction is scheduled for 2015 or as funding becomes available.

The central aspect of the design is a roundabout handling the intersection between Boyer Avenue and Schweitzer Cutoff Road. According to associates of design consultant J-U-B Engineers, they initially planned to use a traffic signal for the intersection but changed their plans to a roundabout based on a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This study found that roundabouts greatly decreased the occurrence of fatal crashes, injury crashes and pedestrian and bicycle collisions. The study also noted improved performance in at-grade intersections and roads with highly fluctuating traffic volume.

Regardless of the method used to control the intersection, engineers concluded that something had to be done to keep traffic from backing up. During a day’s busiest moments, westbound vehicles attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Boyer had a tendency to halt traffic — sometimes all the way to the lighted intersection with U.S. 95.

According to project associates, the presence of a roundabout concerned some community members. In response, representatives of Sandpoint Fire Department, Lake Pend Oreille School District and the local trucking community tested oversized vehicles in an Oct. 29 “Roundabout Rodeo” approximating the proposed roundabout’s dimensions. Planners also hosted an Oct. 4 open house that drew in 28 community members. These events gave planners new insight in how best to accommodate heavy vehicles while maintaining a steady traffic flow in the area.

Other planned improvements for the project area include resurfacing, the addition of a possible turning lane west of the Boyer intersection and new amenities like sidewalks, bicycle lanes, curbs and gutters.

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