Good transportation design requires balance between vehicle, pedestrian movement

By Steve Klatt
Reader Contributor

It is interesting to observe the discussions begin again about transportation routes through Sandpoint, as individuals once again dig their philosophical trenches to create more “roadblocks” to finding an optimum or even acceptable driving solution.

Having been on the Sandpoint City Council in the 1970s, when we implemented a one-way street grid so that we could drive through Sandpoint and worked with public involvement on the Sand Creek project, this subject is not new to me. 

Steve Klatt. File photo.

I still find myself maintaining the position we need to have a transportation design that allows all traffic flow through Sandpoint, and this does definitely include commercial trucks of all shapes and sizes.  

Through decades of community transportation planning, we have never really done justice to the industrial trucking complex clustered in the northwest corner of Sandpoint, and this is one vital economic component of our community. Likewise, we are a community of pedestrians and bicyclists needing connectivity from one side of town to the other. Functional traffic design typically calculates the numbers of types of users on the road system. Designing dysfunction for the majority to accommodate a preferential few is not a good design premise, either.

Sandpoint as a community chose a course of traffic routes bisecting Sandpoint in the 1980s, when the city began opposing the concept of a western route for a bypass that could connect all highways. 

Finding solutions to any divisive community issue takes some open-mindedness, tolerance of others’ viewpoints and willingness to incorporate a little personal humor into our interactions. So, I find it troubling when we chide political polarity in governmental affairs and elected officials, then start chains of diatribe to instigate polarity on this issue rather than promoting community conversation. 

There are numerous elements available to be utilized for pedestrian movement, as well as choices for connecting traffic routes for both form and function. I am an old-school road and highway guy who believes traffic design has a primary purpose to accomplish: smoother vehicle movement while accommodating pedestrian movement. 

The most recent downtown street designs were all about pedestrians and few considerations were made for how vehicles traverse between highways. Somehow, creating traffic movement that shifts to residential streets as the most expedient routes through Sandpoint is not really very good design for city residents, either. 

There are many of us who live in the county, traverse Sandpoint for our livelihoods and are local shoppers, but do not find the lack of vehicular connectivity a community attribute.

Steve Klatt is a former Sandpoint City Council member and retired longtime director of the Bonner County Road and Bridge Department.

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