City gets rolling on Division Ave. Phase 1 improvement project

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

The city of Sandpoint is moving forward with a project to improve the heavily traveled stretch of Division Avenue from Superior Street to the intersection with U.S. Highway 2. City officials hosted a community open house on the project March 29, and provided an online info sheet that stated Phase 1 of the improvements are expected to start construction this summer.

Image courtesy city of Sandpoint.

According to City Hall, the work is informed by a road safety audit conducted in 2020 and the project included in the Multimodal Transportation Master Plan, which the City Council approved in the spring of 2021. In December 2021, the council authorized city staff to seek grant funding under the Children Pedestrian Safety Program of the Local Highway Technical Assistance Fund, as well as apply general fund dollars already budgeted for sidewalk improvements.

The need is great, according to the road safety audit, which found that particular stretch of roadway — which runs immediately past Sandpoint Middle and High schools — is one of the busiest transportation routes in Sandpoint. 

More than 2,000 students attend schools on Division Avenue — which also includes Farmin-Stidwell Elementary School farther to the north — with 6,600 annual average daily vehicle trips, as well as serving as a truck route.

The 2020 report also showed that there were more than 30 crashes between 2015 and 2019 on the portion of Division from Michigan to Spruce streets, including 26 crashes affecting property only, three minor injury crashes and four serious injury crashes. The percentage of crashes involving serious injury made up 12% of the total, which is three times higher than the statewide average. The percentage of property-only crashes ran to 79% of the total, compared to 63% statewide. By far the highest density for collisions occurred at the intersection of Division Avenue and Pine Street.

Meanwhile, the report found, the east side of Division between Superior and U.S. 2 is inadequate for pedestrian and cyclist safety — especially when it comes to sidewalks and bike lanes.

The first phase of the Division Avenue Corridor Improvement Project includes narrowing the north- and southbound lanes on Division and moving them to the west. That measure — referred to “a lateral shift” — is intended to slow and therefore calm traffic flow.

The other portion of Phase 1 is to reconstruct the east side of Division to widen the frontage, including new sidewalk, a planter strip acting as a buffer between travel lanes and sidewalk, new curb and gutter, and driveway approaches. 

The new east-side Division sidewalk will measure six feet wide, and the planter strip is intended to incorporate green space, as well as provide for snow storage.

According to a presentation at the Dec. 15, 2021 City Council meeting, when staff was given the greenlight to pursue grant funding, overall reconstruction and improvements on Division Avenue represent a much larger project, with adequate pedestrian and cyclist safety features throughout the corridor running to an estimated $10 million in potential costs. Phase 1 is intended to be a measure that would provide the most immediate benefits for its relatively smaller scope.

City officials anticipate the full Division Avenue project — including work throughout the whole corridor — to be fully completed within the next 10 to 20 years. Meanwhile, Phase 1 is in the preliminary design phase and will likely be bid in May, in time for construction to take place after schools close for the summer.

For more information, contact City Construction Manager Holly Ellis at [email protected] or 208-946-2087. Project updates will be at as they become available. 

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