‘The silver tsunami’

Planners working on infrastructure future for Sandpoint as it faces waves of growth

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Sandpoint City Council members received an update on the longtime, ongoing, Multi-Modal Master Plan, which seeks to lay the foundation for at least the next few decades’ growth in the region.

Amanda Wilson, who serves as director of infrastructure and development for the city, kicked off the presentation April 7, calling the planning effort “a significant milestone,” in a process that began “many, many years ago.”

Sandpoint City Hall. Photo by Ben Olson.

The council took no action April 7, sitting for a high-level presentation from consultants Mandi Roberts with Otak and Preston Stinger, of Fehr and Peers, as they outlined the first of two parts of the future vision for Sandpoint’s highways, byways, bikeways and pedestrian walkways.

A central takeaway was that Sandpoint has an exceptionally complex infrastructure at the same time as it is experiencing a historic amount of growth.

Part 1 of the presentation took place April 7; Part 2 is scheduled for Thursday, April 22 and a final vote is expected at the regular council meeting on Wednesday, May 5.

Regarding the plan, Roberts said, “The vision is aspirational but it’s not too far reaching.”

Much time was spent on discussing how to ease congestion on roads such as Great Northern, as well as planning for increased congestion on surface streets in the downtown core.

Noting that Sandpoint is “a strong year-round community,” of both walkers and bikers, Roberts said that residents use transit at a higher level than other communities.

The plan is intended to to think about growth insofar as, “we want the plan to really consider that and look ahead to that.”

According to data presented by consultants, the so-called “silver tsunami” of retirees to the area is crashing on the Sandpoint area. Roberts said to expect higher-than-average growth in the coming years: 3.4% per year until 2025 and 2.7% from 2025 to 2040. All of this, of course, has a huge impact on the built environment, with traffic, parking and pedestrian safety becoming increasingly important.

Stinger concurred, telling the council that, “There’s some pretty substantial growth planned for the area,” and, “those are quite large levels of growth. … You gotta plan for that.”

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