Byway competes for national award

North Idaho Bikeways would reap windfall if project wins

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The Sand Creek Byway is up for a national award with the proceeds going to North Idaho Bikeways. (DAILY BEE FILE PHOTO)

SANDPOINT — Vote early and vote often.

The Sand Creek Byway is among 10 projects nationwide vying for America’s Transportation Award.

The 2.1-mile U.S. Highway 95 realignment project opened in July 2012 and is being considered for ahead-of-schedule completion.

The project is being considered for the $10,000 grand prize and the $10,000 people’s choice award. If it wins either or both awards, the prize money will be awarded to North Idaho Bikeways, a nonprofit created in 1995 to establish a network of bike and pedestrian trails connecting with surrounding communities.

The Bonner County Area Transportation Team recommended that the trail organization be named beneficiary of the awards if the byway wins.

The Idaho Transportation Department nominated the byway for America’s Transportation Award due to the size and complexity of the $106 million rerouting project.

“We had a number of major factors in completing it and still we were able to complete it ahead of schedule,” said Mel Coulter, a spokesman at ITD’s Office of Communications in Boise.

Those factors included wetlands mitigation, a tight construction zone, a large archaeological excavation and a prodigious amount of public involvement.

“One of the things that we’re really hoping for — frankly and not for our benefit — is to get as many people as possible to embrace the nomination and to vote for it as an outstanding project,” Coulter said.

The American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce began the award program in 2008 to honor projects that were completed ahead of schedule, under budget or use innovative practices.

People can influence the people’s choice award by pointing their web browser to http://americastransportationawards.org and clicking on the VOTE NOW button to access an official ballot.

Individuals can vote up to 10 times a day through Wednesday, Oct. 2.

“This has the potential to be one of those national winners,” Coulter said of the byway.

It was announced at the Western Association of State Highway & Transportation Planners’ annual meeting in August that the byway was in the top 10 list of finalists for America’s Transportation Award. The bypass will go up against projects in California, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

The winner of the contest is slated to be announced on Oct. 20 at the AASHTO annual meeting in Denver.

The bypass has already won a dozen honors. They include the AASHTO Excel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Involvement, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Project of the Year and the Top Project award from the Idaho Business Review.

“It’s probably our most heralded or most rewarded highway project,” said Coulter.

Twenty-four states entered a collective 36 projects in the national competition. The 10 finalists received the highest number of overall points during four regional AASHTO meetings this summer representing each part of the country.

“We’re in prestigious company,” Coulter said.

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