End of the trail

Highway 41 path rejected by Post Falls City Council

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JEROME A. POLLOS/PressMembers of the Post Falls City Council and Post Falls Urban Renewal Agency examine field and traffic conditions for the Highway 41 pedestrian trail project during a site visit Thursday, May 24.

POST FALLS - A proposal to build a paved pathway under Interstate 90 along Highway 41 has reached the end of its trail.

The Post Falls City Council on Tuesday night voted 5-0 to not include a bicycle and pedestrian trail from Seltice Way to Mullan Avenue in the East Post Falls Urban Renewal District plan.

The decision came after three years of planning between the urban renewal agency and the city council, a memorandum of understanding being signed between the boards on the project, and paying $75,000 in engineering costs with urban renewal funds.

While the project was touted by some to increase safety from the existing dirt "cow path" that exists on the east side of Highway 41, safety concerns were ironically expressed during the public hearing and was among the reasons for the project's demise.

"(Pedestrians) have to cross Seltice Way, the ramp access to Interstate 90 and get past the driveways of businesses," said Post Falls resident Diane Shoeman, who lives near the interchange. "I question whether to do the improvement simply as a safety issue."

Council member Kerri Thoreson agreed, saying the trail would be an "attractive nuisance" that would be a false sense of security.

All five citizens who commented during the hearing opposed having the trail included in the plan.

Residents and council members also cited the estimated cost of about $700,000 for the quarter-mile path, using urban renewal funds for a project on state right of way, a relatively low amount of usage and the city having to maintain the trail as concerns.

"Four hundred and fifteen dollars a foot and $36 dollars an inch is a lot of money for pavement," resident Len Crosby said.

Building the trail would have required utilities to be moved in the corridor and other special requirements for constructing under I-90.

While the urban renewal plan calls for transportation improvements in general, it didn't specifically include the Highway 41 trail project.

"The idea of building on ITD (Idaho Transportation Department) property is a train wreck waiting to happen," said Skip Hissong, council member. "We have no control over what they do after we build it."

Multiple people at the meeting said they believed pedestrian improvements that could be incorporated into an I-90 overpass at Greensferry Road just to the west of Highway 41 would be a wiser option to fund if such an overpass is ever built.

There has been renewed interest from the city council - and continued interest from citizens - to pursue a Greensferry overpass. City officials say urban renewal funding may be an option for the overpass.

The momentum comes after the council earlier voted to not extend the life of the East Post Falls URD, which would have created more tax-increment funds for transportation improvements in that area but also burdened taxpayers and taxing districts during tough times.

The feds have recently said that a full interchange at Greensferry will not be permissible, making the sole focus now on an overpass.

* In other business, a request by Bob Wilhelm of Bob's 21 Club to sell alcohol at a fundraiser at Corbin Park for three days over the Fourth was pulled from the agenda to allow for more staff discussion.

Alcohol sales at the park will not happen over the Fourth, but similar requests may arise in the future, city officials said. The park is in the county, but is owned by the city.

City staff say they are concerned about the request due to drownings over the years in the Spokane River at the park.

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