Hwy. 2 ‘Couplet’ concept is ‘just nuts’

Former mayor: ‘How is this all in the people’s best interest?’

By Carrie Logan
Reader Contributor

The Idaho Transportation Department and the city of Sandpoint (non-elected officials) have been talking about “the Curve” or “Couplet.” How did this project raise its ugly head again? My contact at ITD said: “The city has expressed interest in trying to build the Couplet project again, although there is nothing in the ITD ITIP [capital plan] currently. I would surmise it would take participation by the city [Dub’s purchase?] to get that project off the ground again.”

In response to a query from me about who in the city started this conversation, my contact stated that there has been continuous discussion over the years, primarily at BCATT (Bonner County Area Transportation Plan, attended by some city staff) and that specific project discussions have reignited when the city was able to obtain Dub’s property and completed their transportation plan. 

Why was the city pursuing this dead horse when the council had made a decision? Why is council again being asked to go along with a five-lane intersection that cuts off our town’s residents from each other and, in the process, hacks away part of Dub’s field? How is this all in the people’s best interest?

A map of the so-called “Couplet” outlining potential changes to the downtown streets. Courtesy city of Sandpoint.

I moved to Sandpoint in 1989, when it had a population of just about 5,300 people. Highways 2 and 95 ran right through town, utilizing a one-way circuit. There was one stoplight in town — at the intersection of Second Avenue and Cedar Street — and a flashing yellow hanging light at Superior Street and First Avenue, as it is now. 

The light at First Avenue and Pine Street was added by ITD sometime in the ’90s and, upon return of the streets to the city of Sandpoint, removed it. 

I used to go to Ivano’s when it was on the corner of Lake Street and Second Avenue, and always enjoyed when waiter Greg served our table. When he brought out your food he would make a sweeping motion over the plate to direct the aromas to you. We used to call him “Mr. Whaff Whaff.” When the restaurant moved to the corner of First and Pine, he couldn’t “Whaff” over your food outside because of the competing aromas from the cattle trucks and logging trucks with their diesel fumes. It was nasty.

There had long been a desire to return control of the streets to the city, and many thought with the completion of the byway that would happen. But not yet. First ITD tried to implement “the Curve” project, which many of you remember involved running a one-way road from Cedar southwest toward Boyer Avenue and intersecting with a five-lane road — horrible and soundly rejected by the City Council and residents.

Still, the city wanted control of its downtown streets back; and, after a two-year negotiation process, we had our current configuration. 

Along with that, and based on a suggestion from a citizen at a workshop — where the public was allowed to speak and contribute — Fifth Avenue was converted to two-way traffic. ITD refused to put the Church Street stoplight we have now at Pine and insisted that the block between Fourth and Fifth avenues be one-way to the east. 

Their data showed that the intersections of Church and Oak streets with Fifth Avenue at peak hour would be problematic but not impossible. Council felt a short delay at peak hours was tolerable. It didn’t make sense to council to invest huge amounts of money to create more lanes and lights for a “problem” that was time limited. 

Implicit in all of these negotiations was the understanding that through trucks east and westbound were to use Fifth Avenue and the U.S. 95 Sand Creek Byway. Most trucking companies do so, but some errant loggers insist on using Church and the city has never ticketed them for that. 

If you look at the data that is attached to the city’s Multimodal Transportation Master Plan, it shows the only congested/failing intersection right now that would be affected by the Curve is at Fifth and Pine (Euclid Avenue) and shows little improvement with the Curve. 

Why in the world would you want to spend all that money, cut a town in half and create more delays and added lights? It’s just nuts to me. If you also look carefully at the transportation plan, there is a truck route designated to include Pine Street east and west! So the trucks will be rolling through town again.

What do we do if we oppose the Curve/Couplet? Contact City Council members in person if you can or write/call them. City Council members — elected officials — should be having these conversations with ITD, not appointed staff. 

Council has the determining say on whether this happens or not and they should not be cowed into accepting it because of a flawed transportation plan that was put together in 2021 with very little input from the public and included no discussion about the Curve/Couplet.

Carrie Logan was elected to two terms on the Sandpoint City Council (2008-2014) and served as mayor from 2014-2016. She also previously served five years on the Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commission.

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