Friday, March 22, 2013

Mountain Rides tones down plan for Ketchum hub

Board approves ‘mini-hub’ on Sun Valley Road


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

A Mountain Rides Transportation Authority Red Route bus waits at the bus stop in front of the Sun Valley Visitor Center on Sun Valley Road. The Mountain Rides board of directors voted Wednesday to establish a transportation hub in the area. Express photo by Roland Lane

    After working on the proposal for nearly a year, the Mountain Rides Transportation Authority has decided to scale back its plan for building a transportation hub in Ketchum.
    During a meeting Wednesday, the organization’s board voted unanimously to build what it described as a “mini-hub” on Sun Valley Road at its intersection with East Avenue. Gone from the proposal is a plan to construct a hub building. Also gone is a plan to link the Mountain Rides Valley Route system to the hub.
    The vote came following a recommendation from the Mountain Ride’s Marketing and Planning Committee. Board Member Peter Everett, who serves on the committee said a de facto hub basically already exists on Sun Valley Road, where there is a bus stop at the Sun Valley Visitor Center on the northwest corner of the intersection and at The Elephant’s Perch on the southeast corner.
    Under the new plan, both those bus stops would be elongated to hold two buses each, and a third elongated bus stop would be established on the northeast corner of the intersection in front of Barry Peterson Jewelers.
    Eliminated from the plan was a proposal to close the west side of East Avenue to vehicle traffic.
    The mini-hub would hold up to six buses and would serve as a transfer point for the Mountain Rides Blue, Silver, Green and Red routes, which all serve the Ketchum-Sun Valley area.
    Transfer points for the Valley Route, which connects the north and south valley, would continue at Main Street bus stops in front of Wells Fargo Bank and Sturtevants.
    The new plan was referred back to the organization’s Marketing and Planning Committee for final design, which would include where to build bus shelters, a possible kiosk and perhaps changes in the intersection to accommodate increased pedestrian traffic.
    Once the board approves a design, the plan will be presented to the Ketchum City Council, which must also approve establishment of the mini-hub.
    At Wednesday’s meeting, board Chair Susan McBryant asked Lisa Horowitz, Ketchum’s director of economic and community development, if she knew the City Council’s sentiments on the issue.
    “I think the city is looking for a recommendation from the board on what is best for the city,” Horowitz said.
    Horowitz, a member of a hub “working group,” was at the meeting to present to the board a history of the process that had been carried out over the past year to explain the hub concept to the community and to gain public comment on proposed sites. Originally, 18 sites were under consideration, but the plan was whittled down to four by the fourth of a series of public open houses held in February.
    Finalist sites, now eliminated from consideration, were two sites in west Ketchum south of the intersection of Washington Avenue and Second Street and a site on East Avenue between Sun Valley Road and Second Street.
    The board of directors rejected the Washington and Second sites because they are two far removed from the city core. Some board members said the East Avenue site was the best location, but it had met with significant opposition from local business owners who complained that a hub there would eliminate parking spaces and hurt business.
    At Wednesday’s meeting, Bob Rosso, owner of The Elephant’s Perch and a member of the hub working group, told the board that he still questioned the need for a hub at all, but if one is to be established then Sun Valley Road is the best location.
    Architect Dale Bates, another member of the working group, said opposed the Sun Valley Road site because of heavy traffic at the intersection.
    “I feel like you’re throwing the passengers under the bus by doing this,” Bates said.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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