Sandpoint council to host info workshop on Hwy. 2 ‘Couplet’ concept March 15

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

City Hall will again address the potential redevelopment of a portion of U.S. Highway 2 as it moves east and west through Sandpoint, this time in an informational workshop scheduled for the regular Wednesday, March 15 meeting of the City Council. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. and will take place in the Sandpoint City Council chambers (1123 Lake St.).

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

Members of the council voted Feb. 15 to undertake the workshop, which Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said would be intended to inform councilors of the bigger picture surrounding the concept for “the Couplet,” or “East-West Connection,” as it is sometimes called.

“These concepts were all developed together. What is happening on one section of roadway is affecting others,” she said at the Feb. 15 meeting, adding later, “I think the workshop will help you understand how all these things are layered on.”

The concept includes widening U.S. 2 to a five-lane signalized intersection replacing the current crossing at Boyer. In addition, the city envisioned creating a point of access off U.S. 2 to South Boyer Avenue in order to provide a north-south connection across the highway. However, that route would run directly through the property currently home to Dub’s Drive-in.

Councilors on Feb. 1 approved the purchase of the Dub’s property for $380,000, which it will lease back to current owners Marty and Jeralyn Mire, who plan to retire, then sublease the property to new owners who will operate the business at its current location until such time as the city needs to use the property.

According to the design, Pine Street would remain two-way from U.S. 2 to Fifth Avenue, with a signal placed at Pine and Fifth. Northbound traffic would travel on Fifth, which would be converted to one-way. Southbound traffic accessing U.S. 2 would need to exit the intersection at Fifth and Cedar and take a new two-lane, one-way route — one half of the “Couplet” — traveling along the Sandpoint-Dover pathway to the envisioned intersection east of Boyer and Pine, where it would then join U.S. 2.

Opposition to the concept has come from a number of residents and former city officials, who liken it to “the Curve,” which was a similar project brought by the Idaho Transportation Department in 2011, but which the city rejected in 2013 based on impacts to surrounding businesses as well as safety concerns.

The public will be invited to attend the workshop, and according to an email March 8 from Mayor Shelby Rognstad, contrary to previous statements, members of the community will be given the opportunity to ask questions.

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