Wednesday, July 18, 2007

City will dead-end street to cut traffic

?Closure? on 3-year-long Edelweiss debate

Express Staff Writer

Closure comes in many forms and not a year too soon for the 17 households on a short street in Ketchum called Edelweiss.

After more than an hour and a half of discussion on Monday night, the Ketchum City Council approved installation of a barrier to close the north end of the street to vehicular traffic. That will create a temporary cul-de-sac and prevent West Ketchum residents from using it for an express route to the post office on Fourth Street.

A few residents spoke volumes at Monday's public hearing before the council's decision, and Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman spoke of traffic volume, rather than speed, as the problem.

"Volume has increased dramatically," Lyman said.

A traffic count in 2004 showed that an average of 80 cars a day used the short street, while a recent survey counted an average of 200, Lyman said.

Many residents on the street walk to town, said Edelweiss resident Diana Young.

"We walk all over," she said. "That's the beauty of where we are."

A majority of those who spoke supported the cul-de-sac closure to bring their street back to its residential traffic status. At an earlier council meeting, Lyman called the traffic volume on Edelweiss, "a misuse of a residential street."

Considering that the end of Fourth Street could be closed when the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor project is completed, the council weighed options and considered creating a temporary cul-de-sac, the best and least-expensive fix. Several council members said they envisioned Fourth Street's becoming more bicycle and pedestrian friendly and that the proposed solution meshed with that vision.

The Heritage Corridor design depicts Edelweiss as a cul-de-sac. The temporary fix will also include signs to discourage motorists from using an alley next to the Simplot lot as a street.

The "Jersey barrier," a type of moveable metal barrier, would be installed at a cost of $5,000 to $10,000 and residents will be encouraged to place flowerpots around the barrier to enhance esthetics. The true concrete Jersey barrier originated in New Jersey and was used to separate highway traffic to prevent head-on collisions.

The final solution to the Edelweiss problem could be incorporated into the finalization of the Fourth Street project and could include a limited improvement district in which residents would share the cost of a permanent closure with the city, several council members said.

"Eventually it will be a (permanent) cul-de-sac," Councilman Ron Parsons said.

He said the temporary solution would be good for two to three years and a final fix could "encourage pedestrian and bike traffic all the way down Fourth Street." Three bike paths converge where Edelweiss connects to Fourth and residents said the intersection is dangerous because motorists have trouble seeing, especially when snow piles up in the winter.

Dale Bates, Heritage Corridor design team leader, said in an interview that the eventual Fourth Street terminus could be marked with some type of physical feature celebrating the area's heritage, such as an arch or pylons, and that it may also include restrooms.

In other actions, the council:

· Decided after a lengthy discussion and public hearing to provide additional published legal notice for a proposed ordinance that would reduce setback requirements for buildings with a fourth floor. On 60-foot rights-of-way, the setback is currently 25 feet. The proposed change would reduce that to 10 feet.

· Passed the first reading of an ordinance lifting the interim moratorium on building permits in the Tourist District but not in the General Residential and High Density District.

· Approved a resolution reimbursing the city $45,065 from the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security for expenses related to flooding in the city in 2006.

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