Plan to ease Post Falls congestion

Four intersections may get signals; open house Wednesday

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Traffic congestion on Seltice Way in Post Falls has prompted the city to consider installing new traffic lights to help with the problem.

POST FALLS - Post Falls is moving ahead with a plan to light up the Seltice Way and Spokane Street area to reduce traffic congestion.

The plan calls for signalized intersections at:

* Seventh and Spokane (near G.W. Hunters);

* Mullan and Spokane (library);

* Seltice and Compton (Perfection Tire); and

* Seltice and Henry (Les Schwab).

"I'm glad something is being done because traffic can be horrendous along Seltice and Spokane, but I'm not totally convinced sticking in more traffic signals will solve the problem," Post Falls resident Tami Johnson said last week while filling her vehicle up with gas along Spokane Street.

"It can be very difficult getting out onto Spokane and Seltice during peak times."

The city will host an open house on the Seltice Way Congestion Mitigation Plan on Wednesday from 11:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the City Hall rotunda, 408 N. Spokane St.

The public is invited to view the design and offer comments. It will be the final chance to weigh in on the plan before the design work starts.

"It's a lot easier to speak now and get your problems taken care of than to wait until the project is under construction," said Rob Palus, assistant city engineer.

Palus said the signals are scheduled to be installed all at once in 2016, unless another project gets bumped from the state improvement plan and this one gets moved up.

"Our hope is by completing the design this year, we'll have the project in position so that if another project falls, we'll get the funding sooner," Palus said.

The estimated cost of the project is $2.4 million, which includes design, right of way acquisition and construction. A state grant will pay for 93 percent and the city will be required to fund a 7 percent match. The city's amount will come from transportation impact fees, not the general fund.

"This is an example of growth paying for growth," Palus said.

Palus said one concern he has heard is that more signals may only increase the congestion, but he said the lights will have technology that allow them to "talk" with each other and adjust when traffic starts to build at one of the intersections.

Palus said it's important that all the lights go up at the same time in that regard.

"If we construct them in phases, it could make traffic even worse," he said.

Palus said the intent is to make better use of Mullan Avenue and have Seventh Street as a "bypass" to avoid the intersection of Spokane and Seltice.

Palus said safety improvements are needed and planned for Seventh. The grant doesn't cover improving that street, but the transportation impact fees will.

Design work for Seventh will start after the signal design is approved.

"Our goal is to improve Seventh at the same time or even before the lights go up," Palus said, adding that only a partial modernization may be feasible to start with, depending on other project priorities.

The city had a study conducted in 2010 on a plan to mitigate traffic in the area of Seltice and Spokane.

"We're now moving ahead with the preferred alternative of that," Palus said.

Several years ago, converting Seltice and Mullan into one-way streets in the corridor was bantered, but those ideas were earlier scrapped due to business concerns.

A free light lunch of sandwiches and chips will be available at the open house from noon to 2 p.m.

Questions and comments can also be directed to Palus at 773-4235 or rpalus@postfallsidaho.org.

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