Officials celebrate Ella Ave. project

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) Mayor Shelby Rognstad cuts the ribbon as officials from the city of Sandpoint and the Local Highway Transportation Assistance Council gathered on Ella Avenue Wednesday to celebrate the success of the Ella rehabilitation project.

SANDPOINT — The Ella Avenue rehabilitation project recently finished on time and well under budget, prompting city officials to continue improvements on the stretch of road between Pine and Chestnut streets.

"We are really proud of our team," said City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton. "This was a project that we needed to pull off in a tight timeline, which we knew we could do, but some of our new management approaches have led to us really being able to get things done in a tight timeline and really get costs under control. So we are super proud of that."

To celebrate completion of the primary aspects of the project and near completion of the added improvements, officials from the city and the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday. The ceremony was held on Ella between Spruce and Chestnut streets.

The entire project was funded through a $546,000 Local Strategic Initiative grant through LHTAC awarded to the city in March.

"The Ella Avenue reconstruction project is a phenomenal example of how the Local Strategic Initiative grant funds can make a quick impact in communities across the state," said Laila Kral , deputy administrator with LHTAC. "This project improved safety while promoting mobility to Litehouse Inc. and the neighborhoods surrounding the area. We hope to see more Local Strategic Initiative funded projects providing improvements to the local transportation systems."

The Local Strategic Initiative program is funded through a portion of the state's surplus eliminator funds administered by LHTAC. There is $24 million available for the next round of funding through an application due Dec. 6, Kral said, and this is the last year of funding for this program unless it is continued by the Idaho Legislature.

The scope of the Ella project primarily included the asphalt overlay with limited areas of curb, gutter, ADA curb ramps and storm drain work. 

City Engineer Dan Tadic told council on Sept. 5 that surplus funds were available for the project, so staff was looking at more ways to improve safety and mobility through the corridor. Over the course of the project, Tadic said staff heard concerns from residents, including reports of speeding motorists, people using Ella as a north-south corridor to get through town, and also that Litehouse shift changes coincide with school pick-up, resulting in an “enhanced amount of traffic” for a period of time. In looking at the different “traffic-calming” options, including speed bumps and bulbouts, staff settled on the idea of a speed table.

Speed tables are a concrete rise that gradually rises three inches over six feet, Tadic said. There is a 10-foot flat surface on the top with the gradual rise on each side, for a total length of 22 feet. Construction has started on the speed tables, with the first one between Church and Oak is completed. Construction is just starting on the second one, located mid-block between Fir and Larch. The third, between Spruce and Chestnut, is marked out but construction has not started on that section. Tadic said expected completion of the speed tables is Oct. 15.

When all is said and done, Stapleton said the city expects to come in at less than $500,000 for the entire Ella Avenue project.

North Ella Avenue is an important link in the “Explore Sandpoint!” dedicated bicycle route system, Stapleton said. A map of the bicycle route system can be found on the city's website at bit.ly/2NjEwe8.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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