Friday, May 5, 2006

Making Hailey traffic friendly

City considers measures to promote safety


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey is working to create a city transportation master plan to guide future decisions relevant to managing both motorized and non-motorized traffic. One of the stated goals is to make the city safer for pedestrians and bicyclists like Brandon Vanhorn of Hailey, avove, riding the Wood River Valley Trail System on Wednesday. Express photo by David N. Seelig

An ongoing process to decide how Hailey will regulate its traffic during the next 20 years is at a point where officials are now discussing several options for better managing the city's traffic.

During a workshop at the Hailey Community Campus Tuesday, employees from the city's Public Works Department, as well as traffic experts from the engineering and transportation planning firm The Transpo Group, discussed various traffic-calming measures with a small crowd of Hailey residents.

The current planning process is designed to develop an overall Hailey Transportation Masterplan that will guide the city's future decisions on managing traffic on the city's various streets and thoroughfares, including the Highway 75/Main Street corridor. The document would also guide future planning decisions for making the city safer for children, pedestrians and bicyclists commuting around town.

During the workshop, officials put forth four separate traffic plans for managing the Main Street area of the Hailey city core. Each alternative includes a number of traffic-calming measures to make the city an easier place to commute around by foot and bicycle.

Hailey City Engineer Tom Hellen said planning for safe pedestrian and bicycle traffic has increasingly become a large part of how cities manage traffic within their boundaries. "That in the last decade has come more to the forefront," Hellen said.

The four separate traffic plans discussed by officials on Tuesday, while tentative only, do indicate where current thinking on managing traffic in Hailey may be headed.

The four options include:

· A three-lane concept that would reduce the number of lanes on Main Street to one lane in each direction in addition to creating a vegetated raised median. Center left-turn lanes would be placed in the median to allow traffic to turn onto select side streets. Of all the concepts, this one would provide pedestrians with the shortest crossing distances on Main Street.

· A four-lane concept that would be similar to the three-lane concept except that Main Street would have two lanes in each direction. This option would also include raised vegetated medians in a number of locations with center left-turn lanes.

· A five-lane concept similar to what currently exists on Main Street, but with some pedestrian safety improvements like shorter distances from curb to curb and lighted crosswalks at select intersections. This option would also include raised vegetated medians, although they would be in far fewer locations.

· A couplet concept that would reroute southbound Highway 75 traffic on to River Street. The concept would restrict Main Street to northbound Highway 75 traffic only. In both directions, vehicle traffic would have two travel lanes to choose from.

Each alternative also includes vehicle roundabouts at various locations on River Street. Additionally, each alternative has safety improvements for pedestrians using Main Street, including pedestrian signals, buffer zones protected by the raised medians and a reduction in the total width of roadway pedestrians must cross.

Officials who spoke during the meeting indicated that the three-lane and couplet concepts are much less likely to be considered.

In addition to planning for the Main Street area, officials are also working to create a coordinated system of improved trails and sidewalks on select city streets that will connect Hailey schools, neighborhoods and retail and dining areas together. Some of the streets being considered for possible pedestrian and bicycle improvements are Myrtle, Bullion and Elm streets, as well as Second Avenue.

Although Tuesday's meeting only touched on the area of the downtown city core, officials are also considering ways to improve traffic in more outlying Hailey areas.

Tuesday's workshop was the second meeting held in the planning process, which began last September. Hailey officials hosted their first public meeting on Nov. 2.

The next meeting will likely take place sometime in July, Hellen said. After that, the next step is to come up with a preferred alternative for the Hailey Transportation Masterplan, he said.

"Hopefully before the end of the year."

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Hailey Master Plan

Anyone wishing to learn more about the ongoing work on Hailey's new transportation master plan can contact city engineer Tom Hellen at (208) 788-9830, ext. 14.




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