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Residents to get look at Lakeshore Drive project

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | April 15, 2022 1:00 AM

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SAGLE — Better access and improved safety.

Bottom line, those are the goals behind an intersection improvement project at U.S. 95 and Lakeshore Drive, which began last year and will hit full stride this summer.

Next week, area residents will get a chance to get an up-close look at the project at an open house being hosting by the Idaho Transportation Department.

The open house will be held Thursday, April 21, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Northern Lights building, 421 Chevy St., in Sagle. Information about the project’s timeline, construction impacts and future plans for the U.S. 95 corridor will be provided. No formal presentation will be given, but the project team will be available to answer questions, ITD officials said.

"The improvements on Highway 95 at the Lakeshore Drive, Bottle Bay, and Sagle Road intersections coming this summer will provide better highway access and safety," said Woodward, who helped shepherd the project through the Legislature.

The project's first phase started in fall 2021, building an acceleration lane for drivers onto the highway from Lakeshore Drive. Earlier this week, crews started installing signs in the area and plan to finish striping as soon as weather allows. ITD crews need two days of good weather to do the striping; however, two-way traffic will be maintained while the crews work during during the day, ITD Project Manager Phil Stout said.

ITD officials said crews had planned to turn the highway's existing center turn lane into a dedicated turn lane for northbound traffic accessing Lakeshore Drive. However, those plans changed after talking to residents on nearby Greenwood Avenue. Instead, ITD officials said they would make no changes to the striping.

Construction for the project's second phase will likely start in August, with the addition of a median U-turn on U.S. 95 as an alternative for drivers wanting to turn left from Lakeshore Drive, ITD officials said. Next spring, a four-way signal will be installed at the U.S. 95 and Sagle Road intersection with a detour in place for Sagle Road east of the intersection.

Additionally, ITD is considering providing an acceleration lane for traffic turning northbound onto the highway from Bottle Bay Road, as well as a deceleration lane for northbound traffic turning onto Bottle Bay Road from U.S. 95. Another option includes constructing a median U-turn for Bottle Bay. These changes, unlike the first two phases, do not have funding for construction at this time, ITD officials said.

"The U-turns, similar to those in Ponderay, will alleviate the need to cross a lane of traffic to enter the highway," Woodward told the Daily Bee. "Everyone can see the ever-increasing amount of traffic on Highway 95. This will be a great improvement while the transportation department works on a longer-term solution to the corridor."

Woodward said he knows there will be temporary disruptions and challenges that come with rebuilding a section of road as busy as U.S. 95.

"[However, the long-term reward will outweigh the short-term inconvenience," he added. "ITD does a great job paying attention to holidays and events then modifying construction schedules with their contractors."

In addition, the highway will be repaved from Monarch Road to the Long Bridge.

“We know drivers have been dealing with potholes all spring, so we added work to the project to address that concern,” Stout said. “Our operations staff will continue to fill them in as needed, but this should provide long-term relief.”

Stout said ITD crews should have the median U-turn and repaving completed by winter. During construction, two-way traffic will be maintained during the daytime; however, the highway will narrow to one lane during the nighttime repaving work.

“Some of these details are subject to change once we have a contractor on board, but we want drivers to be aware of what is coming and know how to use the new U-turn,” Stout said.

While the Lakeshore Drive intersection project addresses immediate safety concerns, ITD officials said previously that a study is underway to investigate long-term solutions for U.S. 95 in the area. Part of the process will include seeking public comment.

"Preliminary work on the corridor design was funded last year, in addition to the construction project this year," Woodward said. "Funding the corridor design shows the commitment by the Transportation Board to making Highway 95 work for us in this end of the state."

That, Woodward said, is thanks in large part to Sandpoint resident Jim Thompson who serves on the seven-member board.

"He represents the northern end of the state and he certainly understands our local needs," he added.

For more information, go online to itdprojects.org/us95lakeshoredrive for construction updates and more information.

photo

(Illustration courtesy IDAHO TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT)

A concept drawing of what a median U-turn could look like in the area of U.S. 95 and Lakeshore Drive in Sagle.