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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 20 - 26, 2002


Transportation study eyes major changes

Ketchum open house meeting pending

Express Staff Writer

A look into Ketchum’s crystal ball could reveal dramatic traffic and circulation changes, including a potential physical separation of Warm Springs Road from Main Street.

In a second update to the Ketchum City Council Monday night, a transportation planner proposed several dramatic city-wide transportation changes, including east and west running one-way streets and separation of Warm Springs Road from Main Street.

The council was told the separation would alleviate congestion on Main Street by channeling Warm Springs and industrial area traffic on a designated spur: Serenade Lane, Second Avenue and Seventh Street. Tenth Street would continue to function as a connector to the east side of Ketchum.

"This is kind of like a first draft, subject to considerable change," said Michael Birdsall, senior transportation planner for Earth Tech.

Judging from some of their comments, city council members will ask for considerable change.

"I actually can’t believe we’re really thinking about it," Councilman Baird Gourlay said in regard to the Warm Springs-Main Street split proposal.

Ketchum hired Earth Tech last spring to draft a city transportation plan that could ultimately be added as part of the city’s comprehensive plan. The study cost $65,000, but $50,000 was supplied by a federal grant.

In a September meeting, Birdsall told the Ketchum City Council to expect 40 percent to 80 percent overall traffic growth by the year 2025. That growth estimate figures in a 1.3 percent to 2.1 percent annual boost in Ketchum’s population and a 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent rate of annual employment growth.

By 2025, between 5,300 and 7,200 employees will work in Ketchum, compared to the 3,600 people who worked here in 2000, Birdsall said.

"The forecasted traffic growth cannot be accommodated on the existing configuration of Main Street," Birdsall wrote in a preliminary report presented in September. "Either congestion will get much worse on several existing streets, or economic growth will stagnate, or both."

This week’s meeting was a mid-study update during which Birdsall sought feedback on Earth Tech’s progress. A final version of the study, which is anticipated to be much more comprehensive, will not be completed for another several months. Also, Birdsall will host a yet-to-be-scheduled open house meeting in December on the proposals discussed so far.

But Birdsall has concluded already that "some sort of capacity increase is needed, just to keep things even."

He proposed three general mitigation options for the city’s consideration:

·  Increase the capacity of existing Main Street by removing parking on one or both sides and adding through lanes and/or turn lanes.

·  Develop a bypass route parallel to Main Street to handle the additional growth.

·  Implement high-quality transit services and effective travel demand management programs to significantly reduce existing and future automobile travel demand.

A combination of the proposed solutions will probably be needed to keep traffic growth in check, the consultant said.

Monday night, Birdsall stressed expansion of transit services and alterations to city circulation patterns.

If local bus frequency and coverage areas are increased, use will also increase, but "I don’t know by how much," Birdsall said.

He added that if or when Ketchum implements paid parking, the Peak Bus, which connects Ketchum and Sun Valley to Hailey and Bellevue every morning and evening, will experience immediate increases in demand.

To alter city circulation patterns, Birdsall proposed designating Second Street and Sun Valley Road as a "one-way couplet," meaning they would work together to move traffic in both directions.

One of Ketchum’s congestion challenges results because the city’s businesses stretch east and west, across Main Street, between the post office and the Community Library. Such a configuration could increase Main Street capacity by 20 percent, Birdsall said.

"This is worth doing all by itself," he said.

When asked how business owners generally respond to one-way streets, Birsdsall was clear.

"Change bothers people," he said. "The issue is the same, whether you’re putting in one-way or taking out one-way. Sometimes you’ll only get support after you’ve made the changes, so you’ll have to be bold and brave."

Other options Birdsall examined included building a connector street from Second Avenue to Warm Springs Road via the historic railroad right-of-way, developing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on Highway 75 and connecting Lewis Street to Saddle Road via a new right-of-way that would bisect the city-owned park and ride lot.

Others included developing the north-south bicycle path to accommodate HOV lanes or a light rail system, adding lanes to Highway 75 in order to make HOV lanes and public transit attractive and linking KART and Peak Bus services.



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