Friday, January 17, 2014

Mountain Rides board OKs land purchase agreement

Bellevue property to be used for south valley transit center

Express Staff Writer

This preliminary design for a Ketchum Transportation Hub was released by Eggers Associates at a Mountain Rides board of directors meeting Wednesday.
Courtesy graphic by Eggers Associates

    The Mountain Rides Transportation Authority board of directors on Wednesday unanimously approved a purchase agreement with Blaine County for county-owned property in southern Bellevue that would be used for a south valley transit center.
    But approval of the agreement doesn’t mean the deal is sealed. There are still some legal hoops to jump through before money changes hands, including the granting of a conditional use permit by the city of Bellevue and completion of a federally required environmental assessment.
    The property in question is two undeveloped lots on the north side of Clover Lane where it intersects Gannett Road. The total size of the property is about .5 acres. Mountain Rides intends to use the property to construct a building for maintenance and housing of buses for its Valley Route that connects travelers between the Bellevue and Hailey areas and the Ketchum and Sun Valley areas.
    “It doesn’t give us a lot of room for a park and ride, but given the final configuration, it may still give us a handful of spots for people coming up from the south,” Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said in November, when the deal with the county was still being negotiated.
    According to the agreement, Mountain Rides will pay the county $85,000 at closing and will give the county $40,000 in credit toward 2014 and 2015 contributions the county provides to support Mountain Rides.
    The agreement provides that it can be terminated if for any reason Mountain Rides is unable to build its transit center on the property.

What’s in a name?
    In other business Wednesday, the board of directors discussed changing the name of a transportation hub being designed for Ketchum.
    Board member Nils Ribi pointed out that with final preliminary design that the hub is neither a hub nor a center, but instead is a large bus stop and should be referred to as such.
    “If you can keep it that simple, people will see it for what it really is and it won’t get blown out of proportion,” Ribi said. “Actually, it’s just a really nice bus stop.”
    “In terms of the local population, I don’t think the name matters; they’ll know what it is,” said board member Mark Gilbert. “But visitors and part-time residents, for them it needs to be a name that makes sense.”
    “It should be simple and direct and state the function,” said board member Joe Miczulski.
    “What if we called it the main bus stop or the central bus stop?” said board member Steve Wolper.
    No decision on the name was made at the meeting.
    Construction on the hub, or whatever it will end up being called, is scheduled to begin this summer. It will be built on both sides of the intersection of Sun Valley Road and East Avenue. A preliminary design provides parking for up to five buses, sidewalk extensions at all four corners of the intersection to facilitate pedestrian traffic and covered areas for waiting passengers. The hub will serve as a transfer point for the five bus routes that serve the Ketchum and Sun Valley area.

Ridership up 1 percent
    Primarily because of lack of snow and skiers, bus ridership was down 4 percent in December compared to the same month in 2012. However, overall for 2013, ridership was up 1 percent compared to the previous year.
    According to the numbers, released at Wednesday’s meeting by Mountain Rides Operations Manager Jim Finch, there were 484,850 total rides in 2013 compared to 480,591 in 2012.
    Mountain Rides officials had previously hoped to surpass the 500,000 mark in the number of rides but acknowledged earlier that it depended upon having a good snow month in December.
    The town routes that serve the Ketchum-Sun Valley area reflect a lower number of skiers, with all five of them down in ridership in December. Even the Valley Route showed a 4 percent decline in the month compared to the previous year.
    However, ridership for December was up 9 percent compared to the previous year for the Hailey Circulator Route that provides free around-town service in the city.

Hub open house
Mountain Rides Transportation Authority and design contractor Eggers Associates will host an open house regarding progress on the Ketchum Transportation Hub from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 23, in Ketchum City Hall. The meeting will have stations with schematics so that the public can view what the hub might look like when finished. “The idea is to bring people up to speed on where we’re at and to inform them on the current design,” said design project leader Kurt Eggers. “The second part of it is to be there to take any public input and, of course, to answer any questions.”

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