COEUR d'ALENE - Downtown Coeur d'Alene driving will be dramatically different next spring.
A lot to do with downtown will be different next spring when the $20 million McEuen Park reconstruction project wraps up, but two-way traffic will be incorporated into the finished project.
The Coeur d'Alene City Council narrowly agreed 4 to 3 Tuesday to turn the one-way Third Street into a two-way street from Front to Lakeside avenues.
The change is designed to ease vehicle congestion as a result of turning Front Avenue into a limited-traffic and pedestrian-friendly zone between Second and Third streets - a decision the City Council agreed to by a 5-1 vote in January.
"I really feel strongly people adapt," Councilman Mike Kennedy said of the change to Third Street. "Tourists don't know one way or the other, and locals adapt."
The change will look like this:
Third Street will have north and south bound lanes running from Front to Lakeside avenues. At the intersection of Third Street and Lakeside, northbound traffic will have to turn east or west. It won't be allowed to continue north because Third Street will remain the southbound one-way street that it is now. At the Lakeside intersection, right lane traffic will be forced to turn right and left lane traffic can continue south or turn left.
Sherman Avenue will incorporate a right turn lane at the intersection of Third Street as well.
The change will also cost about five parking spots along the streets.
The change is expected to cost around $150,000 to $200,000, City Engineer Gordon Dobler said, and can be paid for out of the project's contingency fund. That fund is essentially funds set aside for unexpected changes for a project, and started at about $600,000 when the park's budget was set.
But, he added, it will also alleviate concerns of traffic and pedestrian clashes at Front Avenue between Second and Third streets that were there before the project by turning that area into a pedestrian-friendly route. And, Dobler said, two-way traffic on Third Street will keep traffic flowing as well as keep all downtown intersections in A or B status.
Those designations mean traffic will be allowed to move freely, and were studied by a traffic consultant about a year ago when Fourth Street was proposed to be turned into a pedestrian-only street. That study found that the downtown will be able to handle additional traffic with increased park usage after the renovation.
Now, Fourth Street will remain unchanged, but not Third Street.
"What we found was actually encouraging," Dobler said, of studying and laying out the traffic change, adding that traffic will also leave the park from Sixth Street, where the parking garage will have access.
Brenda Garcia, who lives downtown, said it was a benefit for The Coeur d'Alene Resort, but not other downtown travelers. The Resort, she said, will gain the pedestrian-friendly portion of Front Avenue, and it will turn a strip of Second Street into essentially a private driveway to the hotel.
"There is going to be quite the gridlock at Third and Sherman," she said. "I know The Resort and Plaza Shops get a private driveway ... It's a good benefit for them, so somebody gets a benefit."
John Barlow, a consultant for Hagadone Corp., couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
City officials had been working with Hagadone Corp. about beautifying the pedestrian version of Front Avenue between Second and Third Streets. Hagadone Corp. would have paid for a bulk of the enhanced park entrance, but the two sides couldn't reach an agreement on the change. That left the city addressing that portion of Front Avenue and nearby traffic concerns on its own.
"And this is it," Dobler said of the city taking on the change without Hagadone Corp. The company is still a part of the Local Improvement District that pays for improvements to Front Avenue, however.
Council member Deanna Goodlander voted against the change, as she did in January to turn the portion of Front Avenue into a pedestrian zone. She has been a park project supporter, but said the change will narrow traffic too much.
"I don't see how necking down traffic to one lane from two lanes doesn't cause a problem," she said.
The vote on the traffic change was unique by itself.
Council members Kennedy, Steve Adams and Woody McEvers voted in favor. Goodlander, Dan Gookin and Ron Edinger voted against it. Mayor Sandi Bloem broke the tie in favor of the change.
Most McEuen Park related votes at the council have ended 4 to 3, but Adams, Gookin and Edinger have usually voted against it.
As far as the park project's contingency fund, it started at roughly $600,000 when the budget was set.
A couple hundred thousand was added to it after the city's stormwater utility fee came back on the books, and those dedicated funds can be used to pay for stormwater improvements in the Third Street area, Dobler said. The other big change being paid for by the contingency fund is additional rebar to reinforce the Front Avenue parking garage, or bridge, as cars will be parked beneath it. That amount equals about $150,000 too, he said.