In an effort to keep up with other mountain resort towns, enhance downtown safety and increase bus ridership, Mountain Valley Rides’ downtown transportation hub initiative and use of the city right of way was approved by the Ketchum City Council on Monday. Mountain Rides is responsible for the construction, which is scheduled to begin in early September and be done by late October.
The project includes bus shelters in front of the visitor center and The Elephant’s Perch, concrete “bulb-outs” at each corner of the Sun Valley Road/East Avenue intersection, colored concrete crosswalks, six new and six relocated trees, 30 bicycle parking spaces and new benches. The $461,000 project will be funded jointly by the Federal Transit Authority, the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency, Mountain Rides and the city of Ketchum.
Councilman Baird Gourlay said the bulb-outs will make crossing the street much safer, particularly in the winter when bus riders may be wearing ski boots.
Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said part of the reason that the project has been in the works is to keep pace with the public transportation facilities in other ski resort locations. He said Aspen, Park City and Breckenridge, among other destinations, have new transit infrastructure while Sun Valley hasn’t had a significant renovation in 20 years.
Maintenance of the intersection, part of a state highway spur, will move from the jurisdiction of the Idaho Transportation Department to the city of Ketchum, though new asphalt wouldn’t need repair for several decades. The Parks and Recreation Department, which contracts for snow removal at the Town Square and other pedestrian areas, estimates that an additional $12,000 per year will be spent, primarily on hand removal of snow on and around the bulb-outs.
“These improvements are going to go way beyond making it safer and better for Mountain Rides,” Councilman Michael David said. “It’s going be great for our entire community.”
Lead designer Kurt Eggers of Eggers Associates said plans were revised following council comment in February by reducing the size of the bulb-outs and eliminating islands in the middle of the road. The previous design, he said, eliminated two parking spaces on each side of East Avenue for a total of eight removed parking spots. That was remedied in the new design, which only eliminates four spots - three from in front of the Elephant’s Perch and one in front of the visitor center where the bus lane will be. He said his firm also calculated the turning radius of the Fire Department’s largest truck to ensure the bulb outs didn’t jut out too far. A center parking space on East Avenue may be removed later on to provide for better turning, Eggers said.
The bulb-outs will feature a stamp into the concrete made by commissioned artists, according to Ketchum Arts Commission Chair Claudia McCain.
Councilwoman Annie Corrock was the only representative to vote against the project, saying bulb-outs don’t necessarily enhance biker safety, and snowy conditions would be a concern for plowing.
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