Will Ketchum cater to cars or people?
Consultant presents options to city
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
Ketchum is at a crossroads.
With a turn in one direction, the city
could become a busy thoroughfare designed to accommodate thousands of cars and
commuters. By taking an alternate route, it could become a pedestrian friendly
locale that encourages residents and visitors to leave their gas-guzzlers at
That was the core message transportation
consultant Michael Birdsall presented to the Ketchum City Council Monday, May
Vehicular traffic on Main Street in
Ketchum backs up regularly during peak commuter hours, particularly in the
city’s commercial core. Express photo by David N. Seelig
Birdsall, a transportation planner for the
Meridian-based consulting firm Earth Tech, appeared before the council to issue
a beefy, 136-page final report on what the city can do to meet its existing and
future transportation needs.
The long-awaited report—which was
commissioned in 2002—is chock full of assessments of how the city can maximize
transportation efficiency with new traffic signals, travel lanes and public
Birdsall said Earth Tech eliminated many
major projects considered to reduce traffic congestion in Ketchum, but at the
same time chose to offer the city numerous options for molding its future.
Amid the myriad of options presented by
Birdsall Monday was a note of caution that growth will occur and thousands of
cars will continue to flow in and out of Ketchum every day.
"We’re not going to make this thing feel
like there is zero congestion," he said.
What was left in the final set of
recommendations to the city was a mix of mostly small-scale projects to improve
roads, sidewalks and public transit.
Left out of the Earth Tech recommendations
were plans to turn Second Avenue into a major downtown-bypass route, establish a
one-way street grid throughout the downtown core, or possibly construct a tunnel
under Main Street to accommodate more vehicles.
The final recommendations put forth by
Earth Tech do not propose to broadly increase the supply of roadways in the
city, Birdsall said, largely because such an approach would conflict with the
city’s self-stated goal of maintaining its "small-town character."
A set of short-term recommendations issued
by Birdsall includes:
Adding two new traffic signals on Main Street, where it intersects with Second
and Fourth streets.
Expanding the Ketchum Area Rapid Transit bus system and the Peak Bus system.
Implementing paid parking per the April recommendations of Oregon-based
consultant Kittelson & Associates.
Completing a network of pedestrian friendly sidewalks.
Developing a corridor for pedestrian and bicycle traffic along Fourth Street.
Birdsall said increasing public bus
service while implementing paid parking in the city would serve to limit the
demand for vehicular travel into Ketchum.
"There is a relationship between parking
price and transit success," he said.
Birdsall’s long-term recommendations
issued to the council include:
Installing so-called "traffic-calming" measures, such as landscaping and
sidewalks, on Second Avenue.
Erecting new traffic signals or roundabouts at the intersections of Warm
Springs Road with Lewis and Tenth streets.
Installing a traffic signal or "gateway" roundabout at the intersection of
Highway 75 and Serenade Lane.
The true challenge for city officials will
come, Birdsall said, in addressing what to do with Main Street and Trail Creek
A city decision to maintain two lanes over
Trail Creek could foster other changes on Main Street that would generally
accommodate fewer cars and more pedestrians. A four-lane bridge across the creek
could, in turn, encourage more traffic flow on Main Street.
Council President Randy Hall said he would
like to see the city limit the number of cars that pass through its confines.
"I think that’s something we need to
decide," he said. "Are we pedestrian friendly or are we car friendly?"
The city, however, does not have full
control over the future of Main Street and Trail Creek Bridge. The Idaho
Transportation Department has final jurisdiction over what changes are made to
the roadway, which is technically part of state Highway 75.
City officials must also give
consideration to the estimated costs of the recommended actions.
Birdsall said the proposed improvements to
sidewalks and bike paths would cost approximately $500,000. Road improvements
would likely cost an additional $500,000. Transit projects would range upwards
of $1 million.
City Administrator Ron LeBlanc immediately
took notice of the estimated costs.
"This has been a very expensive night," he
City Council members have not determined
if they will approve the report in full or will seek only to endorse specific