North Idaho Slow Growth
The Case of the Missing Traffic Grid
After hours of testimony from concerned residents, it finally seems to have dawned on the CDA City Council that traffic problems involving the Coeur Terre development are serious and that there are no easy solutions. For years city leaders have been promoting the interests of developers while ignoring public concerns. Coeur d'Alene has even gone so far as to outsource its planning responsibilities to a privately controlled non-profit in order to avoid accountability and limit public access.
But now, the high cost of dismissing neighborhood concerns is evident. The Coeur Terre public hearing finally gave residents a chance to discuss their misgivings, and the foremost of these these were the intractable traffic problems the development will create.
The Coeur Terre traffic problems are so serious, in fact, that the best way forward may be to delay annexation until area traffic plans are reworked to provide for a new I-90 interchange and a long term strategy for managing east-west traffic flows accross Huetter. Both of these are long neglected problems that need to be solved before development of Coeur Terre can proceed, and they should have been solved before Lakesides' "Master Plan" was ever created.
The missing I-90 interchange at Huetter is a deal killer. You cannot route all east going Couer Terre traffic through residential streets just because passing through neighborhoods is the only way for thousands of new residents to access an already over-crowded interchange two miles away. Yet somehow the fundamental need for freeway access, and for adequate connectivity with the rest of the city was overlooked by the genius “Master Planners” of Coeur Terre in spite of years of master-planning.
And the reason why is obvious!!! The financial backers of Coeur Terre have long had plans to monopolize control of the entire Huetter Corridor, and they intentionally blocked almost all access in order to prevent the area from developing gradually and organically, according to free-market principles. And now that they have their “Master Plan” ready for approval, the essential traffic infrastructure needed to make the entire project operable doesn’t exist.
CDA City planners have been obstructing the traffic grid of West Coeur d'Alene for decades by kow-towing to developers at every turn. This map shows how ALL SIX of the east-west arterials that cross U.S. 95 have been left undeveloped, blocked, or allowed to dead-end into residential subdivisions. Only two arterials reach as far as Atlas, and none continue through to Huetter.
In other words, the “Master Planners” of Coeur d’Alene have been sabotaging CDA traffic flows and preventing obviously needed freeway access for decades, all to protect their precious Huetter Corridor "Planned Community”, and now they have sabotaged themselves.
Traffic Studies Cannot Fix Disfunctional Traffic Grids
Almost every time a major development is proposed in Kootenai county, residents complain of its impact on traffic, and city planners promise that they will do "traffic studies". But traffic studies and round-abouts cannot fix fundamentally inadequate traffic grids, and the suburban-rural traffic grids in much of West CDA and post falls are simply inadequate to handle urban densities.
The reason for this is that for several generations, city planners have de-emphasized interconnectedness, and failed to develop minor arterials. Property owners throughout the county have been allowed to develop their properties with limited egress, cul-de-sacs, and walled off subdivisions, all designed to discourage "through traffic". This lack of interconnectivity between neighborhoods places enormous burden on the few arterials that serve as thoroughfares, and seriously limits manageable population densities.
But the problems the Coeur Terre Traffic designers face are much worse than imposing urban densities on suburban traffic grids. The problem facing Coeur Terre is, the Huetter Corridor lacks even a minimally functioning suburban traffic grid. And it is quite impossible to rebuild one without reclaiming right-of-ways that were long ago abandoned. And even if solving the East West access problems were possible, the glaring absense of a badly needed Huetter Interchange would remain.
In short, the traffic challenges of the Coeur Terre master planners are enormously difficult and the development is certain to be a terrific burden on the entire community unless they are fixed. And all of these problems were easily anticipated, but ignored for decades, in yet another colossal failure of "central planning".
And true to form, the Coeur Terre planners' solution to this crisis is to promise endless "taffic studies".
But the fundamental problem with Couer Terre it that it is built in the midst of a completely disfunctional traffic grid, which Traffic Studies cannot fix. Congestion can only be relieved by alternate routes, and there are no alternate routes. And in the case of East-West connectivity to Huetter, thanks to decades of neglect, there are not even any suitable primary routes.
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