POST FALLS — Rathdrum’s Patricia Jenson calls her work commute on Highway 41 to Post Falls an “adventure.”
“There’s an interesting mix of commuters with farm and commercial traffic,” said Jenson, who has been making the drive for eight years. “I’ve seen it all — accidents, near-misses, people stranded along the road causing a traffic mess.”
Jenson said Highway 41 between Post Falls and Rathdrum needed to be widened years ago and the improvements can’t happen soon enough.
She said she’s relieved to hear that a plan calling for right of way acquisition in the corridor next year and road construction improvements are slated for 2019 at the south end of the corridor from Post Falls and 2021 on the north end into Rathdrum.
“But it wouldn't hurt my feelings if things got going sooner,” she said with a smile. “It can’t seem to happen soon enough.”
Government agencies and the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold open houses on a draft master plan for the corridor on Monday at Prairie View Elementary, Aug. 23 at the Post Falls Library and Sept. 8 at Lakeland High. All open houses will run from 4 to 7 p.m. Public comments will be accepted.
The corridor will be expanded to four lanes with turn lanes at the signalized intersections. The highway will be divided from Mullan Avenue in Post Falls to Boekel Road in Rathdrum.
"It will resemble U.S. 95 in Coeur d'Alene," said Marvin Fenn of the Idaho Transportation Department.
Construction on the Mullan-to-Prairie section of the corridor is planned for 2019 and the Prairie-to-Boekel stretch in 2021.
New signals are planned to be installed at Lancaster in Rathdrum and 16th Avenue in Post Falls in 2020. A bike-pedestrian trail on the east side of the corridor will be continued up the corridor from Post Falls.
About $28 million worth of improvements are planned. The corridor handles an average of 18,000 vehicles a day.
Rathdrum Mayor Vic Holmes said the intersection of Highway 41 and Lancaster has been a concern for several years and, with the opening of North Idaho College's technical school on Lancaster next to the Kootenai Technical Education Campus this fall, it will become an even bigger one.
"That's a troublesome corner at best," Holmes said. "That intersection does not lend itself to bus traffic. That's the No. 1 traffic concern that's mentioned to me on a regular basis."
Holmes said there's no wiggle room on Highway 41 if someone has car problems.
"If somebody has a flat tire, suddenly it's down to a one-lane road," he said. "The state recognizes these issues, but it is our belief that this project should be a higher priority than it is."
Fred Meckel, a KMPO board member and Rathdrum City Council member, said the widening of Highway 41 should help attract businesses to Rathdrum.
"A lot of the setbacks we hear about when businesses are being recruited is that Highway 41 is a two-lane road," he said. "This should snap things into place."
The plan also calls for improvements along Greensferry and Meyer roads, but those will not be constructed in the next five years.
Holmes said Rathdrum wasn't included in the first Highway 41 study in 2002 as that one ended at Lancaster. The city appreciates being included this time, he said.
"We're hoping citizens turn out for the open houses to let the state know about any concerns they have," he said. "For us in Rathdrum, that's the road home."
Bonnie Gow, KMPO senior transportation planner, said the draft plan, an update to the 2002 plan, has been in the works for two years. Comments on the plan, which is available at www.kmpo.net, will be accepted through Sept. 9.
Following the public comment period, the KMPO is expected to vote on the plan in mid-September.
"There are not many north-south main corridor routes in our region, so Highway 41 is a priority corridor," Gow said. "The route has had a lot of rear-end accidents and there is already congestion at Seltice Way and Mullan Avenue. The corridor needs improvements for safety, capacity and congestion."
Gow said she distributed information on the plan and open houses to 21 businesses in the corridor.
"We're trying to encourage as much participation from the public as possible," she said.
Highway 41 plan open houses, how to comment
Public open houses for the Highway 41 Corridor Master Plan from Post Falls to Rathdrum include:
• Monday, 4-7 p.m., Prairie View Elementary, 2478 E. Poleline Ave., Post Falls
• Aug. 23, 4-7 p.m., Post Falls Library, 821 N. Spokane St.
• Sept. 8, 4-7 p.m., Lakeland High School, 7006 W. Highway 53, Rathdrum
To view the plan, visit www.kmpo.net or call 930-4164 for a copy. The comment period runs through Sept. 9. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; mailed to KMPO, 250 Northwest Boulevard, Suite 209, Coeur d’Alene 83814; or be made by calling 930-4164.
• The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization will also hold an open house on Aug. 23 from 4 to 7 p.m. on the 2017-2021 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), an outline of all road projects countywide planned in the next four years, at 205 Northwest Boulevard, Suite 209, in the conference room next to the elevator. The TIP is at www.kmpo.net.
Idaho State Police Trooper Justin Scotch inspects a single-vehicle rollover accident Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 on Highway 41 near Wyoming Avenue. The driver, 17-year-old Austin George, the only occupant of the pickup, was heading south on Highway 41 when he failed to maintain his lane, overcorrected and rolled, coming to rest on the roof of the truck. The driver was transported to Kootenai County Medical Center with what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries.
A vehicle travels North towards Highway 41 on Thursday in Post Falls.