SANDPOINT - The consensus among attendees at the Sand Creek Byway dedication ceremony was clear: the wait was worth it.
After years of waiting for the day to arrive, expectant residents took a positive view of the town's latest addition. Despite some disappointment over the lack of a firm opening date, people were enthusiastic about the project results.
"I think it's about time - it's only been about 50 or 60 years," resident Marc Natoni said. "I think it looks stunning."
Fellow resident Dick Creed echoed Natoni's comments.
"This is a long overdue improvement," he said.
Many individuals were excited for the improvements the byway will likely bring to the downtown.
"I think this is wonderful," Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce board chairman Clif Warren said. "It's a much-needed step toward revitalization."
According to byway planners, commercial semi-trucks and other heavy vehicles will no longer need to enter town on their way to other destinations - meaning the town will be a safer place to walk, bike and linger for food, drinks or special events.
"My guess is this will add to our tourism," Chamber President Kate McAlister said. "Everyone is waiting for some of these paths and trails to open, and I think aesthetically it's very pleasing."
Throughout the byway's history of public commentary, many downtown merchants expressed concern that the diversion of highway traffic would mean fewer stops from out-of-towners. However, according to Downtown Sandpoint Business Association manager Marcy Timblin, many business owners are now eager to see the changes the byway will bring.
"I was hoping we would get a date for an opening today," she said. "I think that on behalf of all the merchants downtown, we're really excited to see this open."
Meanwhile, resident Jim Zuberbuhler pointed out that the byway construction process has done more than just energize the local economy and provide a piece of infrastructure that aims to improve the community. It also helped inspire the Long Bridge Swim, a community event that provides funding for kids to get swimming lessons who couldn't otherwise afford them. Parsons Construction Senior Vice President J.C. Brummond was instrumental in getting the initiative off the ground.
"I'm personally thrilled with the support for the Long Bridge Swim," Zuberbuhler said.
The byway also means big changes for Ponderay. According to Mayor Carol Kunzeman, the highway should have a positive impact on Ponderay business and navigability. The city also got a decorative sign to better establish Ponderay's individual identity.
"This has been a great day, and the celebration was wonderful," Kunzeman said. "This is the best thing for Sandpoint, it will be great for Ponderay, and I love my sign."
The byway ultimately represents a shift in the way travelers experience Sandpoint. According to Sandpoint City Council member Carrie Logan, that can only be good for the town's reputation.
"Folks traveling on this road will say one of two things: 'Hey, let's take this off-ramp and check out this cool town,' or, 'We can't stop right now, but we'll be back,'" she said.
By DAVID ESPO
WASHINGTON - Turned away at the Supreme Court, congressional Republicans sketched a strategy Friday to repeal the nation's health care law in 2013 that requires a sweeping election victory carrying Mitt Romney to the presidency and the party at least to narrow control of the Senate.
Romney sought to turn the court's decision upholding the two-year-old law into a campaign battle cry, saying the 5-4 ruling had injected "greater urgency" into his challenge to President Barack Obama. "I think many people assumed that the Supreme Court would do the work that was necessary in repealing Obamacare," he said, adding that the justices "did not get that job done."
Several Republicans seized on a portion of Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion that said the centerpiece of the law, a requirement to purchase insurance, was constitutional because it is based on Congress' power
see REPEAL, A2
to impose a tax. "Those who will end up paying the heaviest burden for not buying government-mandated insurance won't be the wealthiest Americans, but the very middle class families the president claims to defend," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
The White House said that was an argument it was happy to have. Presidential press secretary Jay Carney said Obama has signed legislation cutting middle class taxes repeatedly, that Republicans want to extend existing income tax cuts for the wealthy and then add "another $5 trillion...that would disproportionately benefit" the same group.
At the same time, the administration announced the latest in a series to steps to implement a law that already has curbed insurance company abuses and cut costs for seniors with high prescription drug costs. Officials said another round of financing was available for states to set up health insurance exchanges.