COEUR d'ALENE - The word that gets thrown around as often as a bicycle tire rotates is 'connectivity.'
So if the goal of cities and cyclists alike is to make it easier for pedestrians to walk, jog or bike from place to place - that's to say connecting - then the newest piece of proposed trail should fit right into the ever expanding puzzle.
Think Coeur d'Alene to Athol, and one day, to Sandpoint.
And all by foot.
The Idaho Transportation Department is considering building roughly 19 miles of Class 1 bicycle lanes along U.S. Highway 95 that would allow pedestrians to walk or bike from Appleway Avenue in Coeur d'Alene to Athol. After that, it could keep building the trail to Sandpoint.
The offer comes with a condition: Once the state builds it, it's up to local entities to take care of it.
"It's very preliminary right now," said Barbara Babic, ITD spokeswoman on the plan
So preliminary, it hasn't been approved by the ITD board and funding isn't yet in place, she said.
But possible partners are already committing.
"I'm for it," said Dan Green, Kootenai County commissioner, one of the partnering agencies.
So are the city of Coeur d'Alene and North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation, who have agreed to help out.
The trail would be built in two ways. First, a roughly 8-mile stretch from Appleway Avenue in Coeur d'Alene to Garwood Road, owned by the state, would be re-done.
Hayden and Coeur d'Alene would take over maintenance on that stretch.
What's there now is an unkempt stretch that makes riding rough, said Charlie Miller, North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation manager. Despite its condition, it's a north/south arterial that commuters try to use because of its direction.
"People still do," he said. "But it can be uncomfortable."
The second phase would be a new 11-mile trail from the Highway 53 intersection that would run through Athol and to the Bonner County line. When ITD improves U.S. 95 from Granite Hill toward the north, it could put in a Class 1 bike lane with it. That lane would connect with the lane south of Sagle, which connects to Sandpoint.
Early estimates peg the new lanes' worth around $2 million. Class 1 lanes are reserved for pedestrians only and kept separated from vehicle lanes.
These lanes would connect Coeur d'Alene to Silverwood to Farragut State Park to Lake Pend Oreille.
"And everything in between," said Coeur d'Alene Parks Director Doug Eastwood. "The connectivity of these things grows exponentially with the 95 trail."
While a timetable to finish the project hasn't yet been established, agencies are targeting 2013 to get the work moving. Coeur d'Alene will vote to approve taking over its roughly 3-mile portion Jan. 2. Hayden could also vote on its roughly 3-mile stretch in early January. Kootenai County is prepared to come to the table early next year too, officials said.
The bike lanes, identified in an environmental impact study on the area as important prior to the highway road projects, would use GARVEE funds to pay for it, Babic said. Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE, bonds are used to fund transportation projects in less time than traditional transportation funding methods throughout the state.