North Idaho Slow Growth

Research and Information

  •  

    Rathdrum Prairie Roadway Planning--STOP SMART CITIES

    Highways, traffic networks, and transportation issues are an ENORMOUSLY important component of healthy growth, so NISGR thought it might be helpful to publish our analysis of the Rathdrum Prairie PEL Study.    The following comments are intended to help Kootenai residents who have not been following transportation issues closely, understand the fundamental issues.    

    Why You Should be Concerned 

    Like most area residents, we love the Rathdrum prairie and want it to retain its rural/suburban character, and more roads mean more growth.   Yet development will occur regardless, and if residents don't make their preferences clear about the kind of growth they prefer, they will be steamrolled.  If we remain silent, transportation priorities will be set by stakeholders and government agencies that are wedded to SMART growth and SMART cities.   So we need to pay attention. 

    The PEL study presents many options for improvements to prairie roadways and is worth reviewing.   This first stage of the study is preliminary, so many options are still open, and many decisions still haven’t been made.  NOW is the time to understand what is being planned and get engaged.

    A PDF of the PEL Rathdrum Prairie Study is available here, and suggestions for offering comments are at the end of this article.

    It is critical that local citizens express themselves because the Federal government has far too much control over transportation funding, and the USDOT is currently controlled by Agenda 21 ideologues, who promote unworkable, unwanted transportation priorities.   The authors of the PEL study had no choice but to include some of these bad ideas in their study, but they grouped all the atrocious SMART Cities malarkey,—which they call Prairie Wide Concepts—onto one page at the back of the report.   

    But Most of the  rest of the study is thoughtful and helpful.   We will therefore reserve our scathing criticism of "Prairie Wide Concepts" and of Federal tyranny in transportation planning for another day, and in this article will focus on the positive ideas in the Level 1 PEL study.

    Also, criticism of 15-minute-city friendly "Prairie Wide Concepts" will be taken more seriously if it comes from engaged citizens.  We need to do more than throw anti-SMART City Tantrums.   We need to pay attention. 

    The PEL Study Perspective

    It is important to understand that the PEL Study is primarily concerned with large scale projects that can be funded by state and federal agencies, rather than upgrades of local arterials and intersections. The first section of the study Existing Roadway Concepts, (Concepts #1 to 29) covers dozens of suggested improvements that affect local traffic, but almost all are considered "elements" of a larger-scale alternatives.     

    What this means is that the primary mission of the PEL study is to solve the problem of connecting US-95 north of Hayden, to I-90, and possibly to SH-53 by way of an “access-controlled” highway, and local improvements will be prioritized with the long term plan in mind.    This is a wise approach.    The piecemeal approach to upgrading local roads without an integrated, long term vision for growth has led to some unfortunate decisions.

    For many years transportation planners were focused on a US-95 bypass along the Huetter corridor, but this was never the best solution, and it is commendable that other alternatives are finally being taken seriously.    The need for some sort of access-controlled US-95 bypass is real and it is fortunate that the PEL engineers are taking a broad, prairie-wide, open-minded approach to converging on the best solution.    

     

    NISGR Vision for healthy Road Networks

    NISGR’s ideas about efficient transportation networks focus on local traffic grids and interconnectivity, and are opposed to globalist concepts of Intelligent Transportation Systems and SMART cities.  We recognize the need for expressways, but our chief concern is preserving local connectivity and suburban communities.   The article Would a Huetter Bypass Relieve CDA Traffic? lays out NISGR’s ideas about these concepts, and points out the ways in which dysfunctional traffic grids create unnecessary bottlenecks.

    Although we recognize the need for an access-controlled highway connecting US-95 to I-90, we believe that an expressway design for through traffic should not impede local traffic.   What we want to avoid is an oversized freeway with inadequate overpasses that divides communities and create local bottlenecks.  It seems that transportation planners in past years have done a poor job of prioritizing highway interchange and overpass projects, partly due to constraints on federal funding, but also due to pressure from developers.   

    A good example of the inexplicable priorities of local transportation planners was approval of the Beck Road interchange, only a mile west of Pleasant View, while the long-standing needs of existing residents for I-90 interchanges at Syringa/Seltice and Huetter were neglected.  The Beck interchange, was of course initiated by Jacklin/Simplot corporate interests while Governor Simplot (a.k.a Butch Otter), was in office, and to this day these badly needed interchanges still don’t exist.   SH-41 is still the only full interchange on I-90 between Spokane Street and Northwest Blvd, and because of this, the recent upgrade of SH-41 was a missed opportunity.

    What should have been Done for a US-95 Bypass

    If Syringa/Seltice and Huetter had been in place ten years ago, the recent upgrade of SH-41 could have been a perfect opportunity to complete the north-south leg of US-95 bypass.  The location of SH-41 adjacent to the highlands, and the fact that commercial development was concentrated mostly on the west side, would have made it a perfect location for a controlled access highway, as far north as Wyoming, at which point a new east/west highway could have connected SH-41 to US-95.  And this development could have been done with minimum disruption, because alternative access to I-90 for local traffic would already have been in place.  

    Pre-existing interchanges at Huetter and Seltice would have tremendously simplified the reconstruction process of SH-41, saved the taxpayers money, and produced a better result.  

    Now let’s see what the PEL Study proposes for avoiding similar problems in the future.   

    PEL Proposals for a New East/West Highway.

    The PEL Study presents several options for a new access-controlled, East-West highway across the prairie. Such a highway could serve as the E-W portion of a US-95 bypass and also as a bypass for SH-53 through Rathdrum. One idea is to connect US-95 to a planned interchange at SH-53 and Pleasant View by way of an expressway running between Lancaster and Hayden Avenues.   Three different routes are proposed as Concepts 46, 47, 48.  

    Another alternative is a route that runs diagonally, parallel to the Union Pacific RR, beginning near the SH-53/US-95 interchange and continuing  to Pleasant View/I-90.   The PEL study retains three versions of the plan as Concepts 31, 32, and 34 but it’s hard to see how the portion running through developed areas of Post Falls would work.  Even worse, a diagonal freeway would block every arterial, both north-south and east-west on the prairie, and even with interchanges and frontage roads, might create more problems than it would solve. 

    At this point, Pleasant View seems to be the preferred solution for the North-south leg of a US-95 to I-90 bypass in case Concepts 46, 47, or 48 are settled on. Concept 23 envisions the conversion of the existing arterial to an access-controlled highway with a parallel frontage road (or perhaps backage roads).  Pleasant View is already a favorite byway between I-90 and SH-53, and a rail crossing and interchange at SH-53 and Pleasant View has long been in the works.  

    NISGR’s primary concern with building a new East-West expressway is to maintain as much interconnectivity as possible so that local travel is not inhibited.  For this reason, we favor routes that obstruct the fewest existing arterials.   For example, Concept 46, runs parallel to the airport east of Huetter, and parallel to the BNSF RR west of Lancaster.  In such a scheme, only six north-south arterials need to be provided for.   We’d like to see either an interchange or an overpass at all these arterials to preserve interconnectivity, since it is futile to improve traffic flow with freeways which block existing travel routes. 

    PEL ideas to for improvements to SH-41

    We already mentioned that, had things been done differently, Highway 41 would have been a good location for a US-95 Bypass.    Nevertheless, we were surprised to see that the idea of “fixing” the problem, by upgrading SH-41 to either an access-controlled (Concept 41) or expanded highway (Concept 4), is still being considered. 

    Depending on how such improvements are implemented, this could be worth considering, since the SH-41 corridor is wide enough for both an expressway, and a frontage road that serves local traffic.  But  how such an express lane would tie into the complicated, newly constructed single-point interchange at SH-41 is unclear.   And another upgrade to SH-41 may be politically difficult to press, because of the millions already spent.

    But again, the reason the SH-41 interchange is so congested, even after millions of dollars spent, is because it still serves as the only access point to I-90 for all of East Post Falls.  Adding long-needed interchanges to I-90 in Post Falls would disperse congestion and must still be done before it would be possible to add express lanes to SH-41.    But it is entirely possible that if enough local traffic was off-loaded to other interchanges, a Highway 41 expressway would be feasible.  

    In terms of improvements to SH-41 near Rathdrum, the PEL study suggests  Concept 45, a realignment of SH-41 north of Wyoming to connect to SH-53 at Greensferry.   Certainly a new SH-41/SH-53 interchange outside of downtown Rathdrum is needed, but the best solution for this may depend on a long term plan for an east-west expressway. 

    PEL Proposals for SH-53

    Another proposal which avoids having to extend a new freeway west of Greensferry, is to upgrade the existing SH-53 from Pleasant view to Lancaster/Greensferry.  The PEL makes several proposals for upgrading SH-53 west of Rathdrum (Concepts 1, 2, 8. 27)

    The main problem with this solution is that since SH-53 is the sole access to all property to the north, it is very difficult to convert to an expressway unless a frontage road is built along side.   For this reason, a separate, access-controlled highway on the opposite side of the BNSF depot (Concept 46) seems preferable.  

    Of course it would be helpful to provide as much interconnectivity as is reasonably possible between SH-53, and the rest of the prairie.   Concepts 36, 37, 3824 all suggest some form of connection between various arterials and SH-53 between Pleasant View and Greensferry but it is not clear which concept is most practical.  

    Alternatives for Huetter Corridor

    We thought the idea of a Freeway bypass along the Huetter corridor was dead and buried, but the idea is retained as in the PEL study as Concept 28.     But it is not clear how much this new plan differs, if at all, from the overly ambitious, six lane freeway that was rejected by voters.   Has it been scaled back?  The plan now includes a parallel frontage road and "interchanges at key crossroads".   But which intersections will be designated "key crossroads" and which will be blocked entirely?    

     So does Concept 28 envision a new freeway with a high speed interchange on I-90 that will be built side by side to a four lane arterial through the heart of Rathdrum, and within three miles of two other major highways? The convenience of a Huetter freeway is obvious to Canadian truck drivers, but for most area residents, this appears to be a giant step towards Californication of North Idaho

    The PEL study also offers more moderate alternatives for Huetter road, presented as Concepts 16 and 17  Both envision Huetter as a four+ lane arterial from I-90 to Lancaster, but differ in the manner in which they interconnect with I-90.   Concept 16 would be compatible with a simple interchange at Huetter (Concept 9), whereas Concept 17 would require a new interchange at the existing rest stop.  

    It is unfortunate that a simple, signalized interchange was not built at Huetter fifteen years ago.    It could have provided a de facto bypass, although not at freeway speeds.  But transportation planners who favor a full Huetter Freeway have resisted efforts to build anything moderate, and to this day insist that no interchange can be made on Huetter until the entire road is made four+ lanes all the way to Prairie.  

    We have written about problems with the Huetter Corridor in two articles:  Would a Huetter Bypass Relieve CDA Traffic? and Coeur Terre Gridlock--Central Planning fails again so we will not them any further in this article.   But the Huetter corridor is an important part of a functional Kootenai traffic grid, and it needs to be rethought.

    Consider the Options and Comment

    Please take time to consider the PEL study and give your feedback.   The people behind the PEL study have listened to concerned residents and laid out all possible options for new Rathdrum prairie highway projects.  NOW is the time to make your voice heard. 

    The following resources are available to those who want to research on their own. 

    For those who would like to leave comments, there is a comment box in the Upper Right Corner of the PEL Public meeting web page, but it may be easier to just mail comments to info@RathdrumPrairiePEL.com.

    What Should You Comment On?

    First and foremost, you should let the PEL planners know that the "Prairie Wide Concepts" being imposed by the Federal Government on North Idaho Transportation plans are completely unacceptable.    Almost all North Idaho residents would prefer to stop future road construction in Kootenai County altogether than to submit to the deplorable vision that our federal government has for densified urban development and SMART transportation.

    But beyond that, you should state your real concerns and preferences, especially those regarding major road projects.    Road planning is an extremely important process and there still remain many real problems to solve  beyond just opposing DOT schemes for SMART cities.    

    NISGR for example, is especially concerned about retaining connectivity and intact traffic grids.  You may be concerned with too much growth, "Californication" of North Idaho,  endless road construction, or too much focus on bike lanes.   If you live in Hauser or West Rathdrum, you might have strong ideas about SH-53.    If you live in West CDA or East Post Falls you might have opinions about the Huetter Corridor or SH-41 upgrades.  Focus your comments on your areas of greatest concern.

    You don't have to write much.  Just let them know you are paying attention.   

     

     

     

     

     

     

Comments

  •  
    icon

    Kris says (Jul 10, 2024):

    You cannot possibly even consider cutting through the praire anymore than has been done. We do not have the space to create major highway thoroughfares off of Lancaster/Wyoming. Wyoming does not go all the way from Greensferry to I-95 because there is farmland that needs to stay that way and the airport is in the middle of it as well. Were way over the normal growth management act here in north idaho as it is. There has not been any public hearings about these proposed land uses in the last 3 years where we could actually discuss this with developers/highway management folks. No one is taking into consideration that adding frontage to Highway 53. We are already seeing the closure of several businesses as a result of the 2 lanes being placed there for what 1 mile?? It’s been difficult as it is to navigate and seeing people barely hanging on to keep their business afloat without any consideration of the financial impacts is mind blowing. Using Pleasantview as an alternative,nope. This is a easy enough access to I-90 already and trying to add more traffic is not the answer. Maybe ask those of us that live here what we think. I came from an area where this nonsense only added to the problem, it did not help at all. Limited space constricted the ability to move more cars through and its so congested. It took 2-3 times longer to drive the 5 miles because it went from 2 lanes each way back down to 1 lane each way. It didn’t add to the solution. Just made it more difficult to navigate and try to drive home or get out of the town. Closing the railroad crossings is absurd and will only destroy more farmland that is desperately needed to be kept for our local farmers. This is their livelhood. Why would we try to destory that?? There is not enough room to do this. Overpasses? Seriously? Traffic cams>?? No thank you. That is spying on citizens, gives money to outside vendors to collect absurd amounts of fines and fees. We are a free society here and our local police and sheriff officers do a great job watching for dangerous individuals. We do not live in a large city and we do not need transit to drive all over the place. Keeping it within the downtown CDA area works for the older population. That is where the hospital and clinics are located. There is no need for them to traverse the local praire area. We have enough vehicles traveling on Hwy 41 and Hwy 53 especially during the summer months. We dont need to add to the problem. Enough of this insanity. Your trying to make us bigger than we need to be and destroy the beauty of this area. That is why some of us moved here. To get away from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities into the quiet of the praire and small town mentality and peace and quiet.

  •  
    icon

    NISGR says (Jul 11, 2024):

    Kris, we just want to say that I hope you sent these exact comments to info@RathdrumPrairiePEL.com. It is very important to ENGAGE with the study author, and let them know you are paying attention to what they are planning. We do not disagree with most of your sentiments. We just believe that we will be taken more seriously with our criticism of road planning if we engage, and that means reading their reports, and commenting on them. So please do this..

Post Comments

Website Created & Hosted with Website.com Website Builder