Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mountain Rides narrows transit hub site selection

Bus organization now considering 6 locations in Ketchum


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Jim Finch, operations manager for Mountain Rides Transportation Authority, discusses potential sites for a proposed Ketchum transportation hub with community member Julie Johnson at an open house Tuesday at Ketchum City Hall. The hub would serve as a central area for bus transfers between the organizationís route systems. Photo by David N. Seelig

Mountain Rides Transportation Authority has narrowed its site selection from 15 to six for a proposed bus transportation hub in downtown Ketchum.

The potential sites were unveiled at an open house Tuesday at Ketchum City Hall. An informal vote by those who attended an early afternoon session showed the public favoring building a transportation hub by 3-1. A second early evening session was held later Tuesday.

Still in the plans is a site proposed earlier this year on East Avenue between Sun Valley Road and Second Avenue. The proposal led Mountain Rides to go back to the drawing board after the location received significant adverse public comment against its selection.

The site, officially referred to as the “East Avenue” site in the newest set of plans, is listed as No. 4 of the six sites now being considered. Mountain Rides authorities explained that the numbering system was done at random and does not denote a priority listing.

“No. 4 is where we really got ahead of ourselves,” Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said in an interview at Tuesday’s open house. “We got a lot of feedback from the public about wanting us to look at other sites, but it’s still in the mix. It has a lot of positives about it, but that doesn’t mean other sites don’t have positives about them.”

Since last March, when Mountain Rides decided to expand its search for a transportation hub location, the organization has been studying site selection more carefully and soliciting public opinion before a final decision is made.

The open house was the third of four that Mountain Rides intends to conduct before making a decision. Miller said a fourth open house is planned for December. Mountain Rides intends to have the list narrowed even further at that meeting to just two or three sites. Following that, Miller said, Mountain Rides will select a preferred site and take the proposal to the Ketchum City Council, probably in January.

Miller noted that a final decision is ultimately up to the council.

If all goes according to plan, Miller said the transportation hub could likely be built in spring 2014. He said that once a decision is made, environmental studies will need to be conducted and engineering plans developed.

All five of the other sites being considered are in the basic downtown area, though some are farther removed from the Sun Valley Road-Main Street core.

Site 1, known as the “First Avenue” site, is on First Avenue in west Ketchum between Sun Valley Road and Second Street.

Site 2, known as the “Washington Avenue” site, is also in west Ketchum and is south of the intersection of Washington Avenue and Second Street.

Site 3, known as “Fourth and Main,” is in central Ketchum on Main Street on either side of Fourth Street. The plan for Site 3 requires closing Fourth Street on either side of Main Street and allowing pedestrian traffic only.

Site 5, known as the “Sun Valley Road & East Avenue,” is in east Ketchum on Sun Valley Road on either side of its intersection with East Avenue. The plan for Site 5 requires closing portions of East Avenue on either side of Sun Valley Road and allowing only pedestrians. Turnarounds would be built on East Avenue to accommodate vehicle traffic where the road would be closed.

Site 6, known as the “Walnut Avenue and Sun Valley Road” site, is in east Ketchum on Walnut Avenue between Sun Valley Road and Second Street.

Whichever site is selected, plans call for parking spaces for up to six buses, with three on either side of the street. There would also be bus and passenger shelters and a small building with public restrooms and an information center.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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