Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bellevue unveils transportation plan

Improvements would begin with sidewalks to schools

Express Staff Writer

The city of Bellevue last week unveiled a far-reaching and comprehensive vision for its streets and highways until the year 2030.

Goals of the city's 30-page Transportation Master Plan include getting people out of their cars and onto their bikes and feet, while increasing the use of public transportation. The first order of business under the plan will be to provide sidewalks as part of the Safe Routes to Schools program.

The plan is a key component of the city's 2002 comprehensive plan and outlines priorities for the re-design of streets, crosswalks and bike paths for safe and efficient transportation into the foreseeable future.

"The Bellevue council has decided that the vehicles are our biggest problem," said City Administrator Tom Blanchard, who presented the plan to the City Council during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10. "We have provided for increased vehicle transportation in the past without thinking about the impact to pedestrians and bicyclists.

"Our goals now are to create a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly community. We already have the money for the sidewalks to the schools. We will be applying for grants for other projects in the transportation master plan right away."

Initial goals under the transportation plan are:

- Developing road standards for future development.

- Networking with Idaho Transportation Department on the development of state Highway 75.

- Initiating a maintenance program for city streets, including designating parking and snow-storage areas.

Traffic forecasts included in the plan assume a doubling of the city limits in the next 20 years through the annexation of land on all sides of the city. With continuing population growth of 47 percent, which the city saw from 1990-2000, Bellevue can expect a population of between 5,000 to 6,000 by 2030.

The plan directs Bellevue to partner with the Idaho Transportation Department, Blaine County and other agencies to fund its projects, which are expected to cost $32 million over the next 20 years. The city will begin public hearings on the Safe Routes for Schools program in March.

In other Bellevue news:

- Larry Plott and Gene Ramsey took oaths of office to serve on the City Council, taking seats vacated by Beth Robrahn and Vivian Ivie.

- The council established an urban renewal agency to raise funds for city improvements and named Mayor John Anderson and council members as agency commissioners. One mission of the agency will be to plan and fund the acquisition of parking lots near Main Street.

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