Taking it to the streets: Moscow plan looks for ways to improve all types of transportation
Moscow on the Move is a 20-year multi-modal transportation plan that will examine all modes of transportation in Moscow and identify the need for new projects, said Tom Brenan, a consultant for Nelson/Nygaard — one of three firms creating the multi-modal plan.
The other two firms are DKS Associates and Alta Planning and Design, Brenan said.
Reah Flisakowski of DKS Associates said each firm is focusing on different types of transportation in Moscow.
Nelson/Nygaard looks mainly at the transit system, Alta Planning and Design focuses on biking and pedestrian areas and DKS Associates analyze the motor vehicle systems.
Brenan said this plan is the first of its kind, and they have been working on it for six months.
The plan will include short- and long-term goals to meet the city’s transportation needs, Brenan said.
“It is really difficult to predict trends,” he said. “We have to look at investments needed to grow the city.”
The long term portion of the plan will focus on projects needed to bring the city up to date and maintain migratory growth.
Brenan said they are also creating a model that will accurately predict traffic growth throughout the city.
The long-term plans to decrease traffic for all modes of transportation are fairly expensive, Flisakowski said.
She said two main issues DKS Associates will address are the amount of freight truck traffic in Moscow and the need for connecting roads throughout the city.
One solution is a “ring route,” a large circular road that would surround Moscow with roads breaking off to connect to different streets in the city.
Flisakowski said that if the ring route is passed, they should try to make the roads wide enough for bike lanes also.
Mayor Nancy Chaney said that the city did need to plan for an increase flow in commercial/industrial traffic, especially with the expansion of the Port of Lewiston.
She said that instead of a ring route, a more affordable short term fix would be ideal.
The second major project DKS Associates is looking at concerns different ways to connect Third Street — right now it is broken up by a creek.
Some of the public is concerned that Third Street will become a major traffic route, when right now it is mostly residential, Brenan said. People also want to know whether or not it would just be a pedestrian and bike connection, or a motor vehicle one. He said putting speed bumps or other traffic controlling aspects would fix problems on certain sections of Third Street.
Before any of these projects can be passed, the city has to decide the feasibility and environmental constraints that come with these projects, Flisakowski said.
“Most of the environmental issues come from topography,” she said. “Building on a hill is extremely expensive.”
She said she would provide the city with multiple options and answer all the questions they have when the plan is presented.
Brenan from Nelson/Nygaard is in charge of looking at Moscow’s transit system.
Brenan said trying to get better east to west routes is one of the main concerns for the city.
The challenge with public transportation in Idaho is that there is a state ban on using taxes for it, which makes it harder to pay for, Brenan said. Money from the transit system comes from the general fund and the University of Idaho, he said.
He said Moscow Valley Transit is currently a free service, but that might change.
“Even with a $2 transit fee that people would pay, it would only cover 15 percent of the cost to run public transportation,” he said.
They will also be looking at different stops to make, and whether or not to run the transit system earlier and later.
Long term plans for pedestrian and bike traffic are centered on Paradise Path and Mountain View Road, Brenan said.
The city is looking for ways to make Paradise Path have less breaks and turns in it.
Right now there are sections that break off, and it causes people to turn through different areas. Brenan said there might be routes built over or under the streets so there is a constant path.
Karen Clifford, Paradise Path Task Force Representative for the Moscow on the Move Steering Committee, said Mountain View Road needs serious work, specifically with providing bike lanes and sidewalks.
The 20-year plan also encompasses a shorter five year plan, which is very specific and contains projects of high importance, Brenan said.
Though the initial study of the city has been completed, the firms held a two-day workshop to gain input from the city’s citizens.
“(The workshops) have been successful,” Brenan said. “We have had good drop-in traffic.”
Fifteen high school students dropped in on Tuesday to show the city what teenagers thought of the public transportation system.
Maps were out for people to look out, and members of the firms were available to answer questions and inform citizens of transportation that was already available and different plans to improve the transportation system.
Most people had input about bike and walking traffic, Brenan said. They expressed a concern in the lack of sidewalks throughout the city.
He said sidewalk improvements are a big priority. The areas built in the 1920s have great sidewalks, but neighborhoods built later — particularly in the 1940s and 1950s — have bad sidewalks.
The city has already been pretty aggressive about improving city sidewalks, Brenan said. The problem comes with finding the funds.
The city has utilized multiple grants to create sidewalks, mostly revolving around creating safer ways to walk to schools.
Brenan said that city also makes an effort with the homeowners in neighborhoods to create sidewalks, often matching half of the cost.
They had a man come in that said his only form of transportation was walking, and Flisakowski said it might be interesting for the city to learn that they have people like that.
“The good thing about this type of workshop is that you’re going to get down to the issues that a lot of people would never see,” said Evan Corey, a consultant for Nelson/Nygaard.
An example of this was a person who told them that the way a bus stop was angled made car lights reflect off the glass and blind drivers, which most people would not know or think about, he said
Besides more sidewalks and bike lanes, increasing the amount of signage is being addressed, too.
People who went to the workshops also took a survey about the forms of transportation they mainly used and what they thought was of high importance in transportation.
Flisakowski said they have had a diverse group of people that represented both sides of the issue, from pedestrians and bikers, to others more concerned about motor transportation.
“We are blown away by the amount of interest,” Brenan said.
Brenan said these workshops were a good opportunity to get informed about public opinion.
They also look at safety issues and examples of transport systems in other cities that are similar to Moscow when creating the plan, Brenan said.
The budget for the major consulting transportation plan was $300,000, Brenan said, and it will eventually be reviewed and adopted by the city.
“That is still a long way away,” he said.
Clifford said that it was great they were creating a plan and to be able to refer to something tangible.
“I volunteered to be on the committee because I thought it would be pretty cool to be a part of something this big,” Clifford said.
Allison Griffith can be reached at arg-news.uidaho.edu