Point/Counterpoint: The Sandpoint Street Revitalization

Will the new ‘bulb outs’ improve the look of town, or are they just a mess?

‘Bulb-outs’ don’t make sense in our community

By Lawrence Fury
Reader Contributor

“I shop for my clothes in Coeur d’Alene or in Ponderay. In the last 20 years, the only thing I’ve bought in Sandpoint are a couple of beers and gas.” 

“Driving to work I use the bypass to avoid downtown.”  

“There is little downtown for me and what there is, is overpriced.” 

“There is precious little parking.”

These are just a few  comments that I’ve heard from co-workers and others for some time now.

With the return of two-way traffic along with parallel parking you can’t see oncoming traffic until you’re practically in the middle of the street. How is this adding safety when going an inch more into the intersection to see oncoming traffic might mean the difference of getting your fender clipped or not?

Now with the redesign between Second and Fifth Avenues, even more parking spaces will be eliminated and the sorry, ridiculous bulbout intersection curbing will barely allow two cars to pass at the same time. Not to mention two larger rigs. Instead of subscribing to cable or satellite television I think once a week I’ll get a big bucket of popcorn, a lawn chair and entertain myself watching one of these large pickups and a motorhome try to make it through at the same time.  It’ll be most entertaining.

Frankly, this thing looks like a shopping mall parking lot, not a city street meant to facilitate customer traffic. What about snowplows? They’ll be hitting them and I know that the city not only plows, but removes the snow to the curb in the winter. Won’t this tight design make that more difficult? Not to mention the extra snow removal for the businesses on the wider sidewalks. And, if Sandpoint is biker friendly what about a bicyclist riding down Cedar, having to go around the bulbouts which will put them in closer proximity to the cars?

If this is what downtown businesses want, mission accomplished, but it will drive locals further afield as the Sandpoint business district becomes even more irrelevant in their lives while catering to tourists and the well heeled apparently becomes more important.

If you’re a downtown business, sorry, I really know few of your names. They seem to change annually. I wish you well — you’ll probably need it. You have a distressing way of routinely going out of business every year or so to be replaced by another one that in turn will suffer the same fate a year or two after that.

It’s too bad though, as I fondly remember shopping for back to school with my mom at Larson’s and Anthony’s. Visiting Ross Rexall Drug store on the corner of First and Cedar, whatever that is now.  Merwin’s at the corner of Main and First, Ben Franklin’s, a burger at Don’s Drive-In, a new movie at the Panida. Now most of that local customer business for most of these things goes elsewhere.

To summarize and at the risk or repeating myself, this will only make downtown more irrelevant to the locals. You’d think they’d want to maximize their customer base to lever out the seasonal highs and lows. Scarcer parking places, even more difficulty in negotiating the streets and the frankly non-competitive prices won’t accomplish this.

The city should have taken their grant money and do with it what they just did to Ella Avenue: tear up the old asphalt and lay down a nice new smooth surface. As for the bulbouts, they might make sense in a two-season climate. The only place they might come in handy around here is on Fifth from Cedar to Larch. Now if you want to cross Fifth Avenue, you need a flag, bright clothing, a map, a sign asking motorists not to run you down and a snack to tide you over until you make it to the other side.

I timed a three-member family once crossing east to west at the intersection between Mr. Sub and the Banner Ban: 45 seconds.

In Fury’s earlier days, he lived for a time in Los Angeles, writing raw scripts for Norway Productions at Paramount. More recently he wrote a monthly column for the now defunct River Journal.


Wider sidewalks mean safer pedestrians in the heart of our community

By Stephen Meyer
Reader Contributor

The downtown street corridor is the heart of our community. The elements of the rebuild like city sidewalks, trees, street lighting, storm water facilities and way-finding should be easy to understand and to utilize in finding your way around downtown streets. The current revitalization project will do this and more.

Let’s start with the traffic patterns through Sandpoint. The city of Sandpoint has developed a good system to get through Sandpoint. It does not go through First Avenue or Cedar Street. Rather it goes up Pine Street and then over to Church Street where drivers can choose their route. As soon as the public starts to follow this pattern, the better off we will all be.

We will have bulb-out intersections at all major crossings in town to allow safer passage for pedestrians of all persuasions. Imagine someone in a wheel chair or with a walker or just slow to cross. The bulb-outs will make it easier for all of us to go out into the streets and navigate clean passage from one side of the street to the other. This is the golden rule for all small towns, and these will make it easier and safer for all who use the downtown either for work purposes or shopping purposes.   

The bulb-outs will also slow down traffic in the downtown core. The city of Sandpoint has already built a designated side passage and developed parking. When people begin to use these side routes, then everyone will see the beauty of these improvements. First Avenue and Cedar Street should be for pedestrians, bicyclists and visitors to our town.

Next there are the sidewalks. The current buildout looks a bit rustic, but it can and will be so much better with wider sidewalks and bulbed-out intersections. Constructing wider sidewalks means that everyone can have the opportunity to walk the streets and say hello to the other people on their route. Wider sidewalks will also mean that the restaurants will be able to comfortably get seating outside.

The wider sidewalks will also allow for better storm water management as we have seen recently with the construction of storm water traps along Church Street, Second and Third avenues. This is something we all need.  Slowing down the water flow to the lake and allowing it to filter out is really something everyone should appreciate. And the new trees that will be placed in the storm water planters will truly compliment our lovely town.

The street lighting and way finding will match the current city models. The street lights will be modeled as they currently are and conserve the night time sky views. The way finding will also be something to observe and to appreciate. Imagine how it must feel for first time visitors to know their way around by following signs.

Ultimately the slower traffic and a more common ground for walking and bike riding will make everyone happier in the long run. The traffic will find a way around the downtown. Bikes and pedestrians will be able to co-mingle with traffic that is circulating and cars will find the parking lots.  

So when you see the downtown street workers, be sure to compliment them on the job they are doing. We are all working to get these changes completed in the shortest most courteous method possible. And when it is done, we will all be able to sit back comfortably in the comfort of the beauty of the city of Sandpoint.

Stephen Meyer is the former owner of Pend d’Oreille Winery and a property owner in the downtown core.


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