Opinion: Honk if traffic drives you crazy

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    BRIAN WALKER/Press Traffic is backed up on eastbound Interstate 90 just west of the Northwest Boulevard offramp in Coeur d’Alene earlier this week when a semi had jackknifed.

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    BRIAN WALKER/Press Traffic is backed up on eastbound Interstate 90 just west of the Northwest Boulevard offramp in Coeur d’Alene earlier this week when a semi had jackknifed.

Sure, you can spot growth in Kootenai County just by following various developments in the news.

There’s the Staybridge Suites Hotel in Riverstone — conveniently located next to McDonald’s, so visitors can always wash down a double quarter-pounder with cheese before turning in for the night.

A Home 2 Suites by Hilton is proposed near the intersection of Ramsey Road and Interstate 90.

Then we have the Carlin Bay Resort, presumably designed for affluent visitors, but opposed by locals who want to keep their village ambience from the old days.

Let’s not forget that massive remodeling job on what used to be a Shilo Inn on west Appleway — now a Comfort Inn and Suites along with Mainstay Suites.

And we’re not even counting all the residential developments. New neighborhoods are springing up everywhere there’s space.

So obviously, you can read or hear about all the developments and realize that we’re growing — fast and seriously.

Or …

You can just drive around and get entangled in ever-worsening traffic hassles.

Yep, we’re under assault from more and more cars, trucks, mini-vans — not to mention back-ups at signals, rush-hour clogging and all the rest of it.

Here’s the professional analysis of non-stop growth, from Sam Wolkenhauer of the Idaho Department of Labor …

“In terms of infrastructure, there is definitely always the possibility of stressing the road system, as well as sewage, water, and the like. This is certainly a possibility.”

A possibility, indeed.

Just ignore that clown behind you, leaning on his horn.

Tim Martin, Coeur d’Alene’s director of streets and engineering, summed up our current experience perfectly …

“We’ve been found,” he said.

EXACTLY.

It happens to lots of lovely and previously undisturbed towns and regions across the United States.

Tourists go home singing praises of the place. A national TV network shows up to do a Christmas show.

Retirees looking for a place to land — somewhere that isn’t a madhouse — see Idaho’s low taxes and relatively open spaces.

Thus a place like Coeur d’Alene (and all of Kootenai County, really) becomes a lifetime destination.

It seems financially fair, in that the newcomers generally have money — so they pay taxes and buy things from local merchants.

Unfortunately, these people all bring their cars.

“It’s a challenge,” Martin said. “We can upgrade a lot of streets, but not all at once.”

Fortunately, Martin said, that traffic craziness around the Kootenai Health complex on Ironwood Drive is over.

Kudos on that, because it’s a pretty smooth drive these days.

And hey, the city has targeted Sept. 15 for completion of the roadwork — complete with roundabouts — on Seltice Way between Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls.

GOOD THING, too, because residential development is coming to that area between Seltice and the Spokane River.

And then there is the issue of going north and south — on U.S. 95, on State Highway 41, and now on Atlas and Ramsey as drivers look for easier routes.

“As people keep moving here,” Martin admitted, “all we can do is widen streets that already exist, try to replace some of our old traffic signals, and add or remove turn lanes as the situation demands — all to keep traffic flowing.

“We’re trying to make it efficient as possible, but our road and street system wasn’t originally designed for this size population.”

There actually is a bottom line to this entire traffic issue.

Just admit it: You live in a booming area now, which above all requires …

Serenity.

So just take a deep breath and remember that your property value is going up by the hour.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Twitter:@BrandNewDayCDA

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