Thumbs up for the Sand Creek Byway | Business
The Sand Creek bypass around the downtown core of Sandpoint opened two months ago and while some businesses say it's too early to tell, many are thrilled with the project.
The $106 Million project takes north and southbound Highway 395 traffic along the east side of Sand Creek, giving people a spectacular view of Sandpoint, the creek and the lake.
"I think anyone who thought it was a bad idea was off the mark," said Nick Delavan, owner of Mountain Essentials, a back country supply shop.
The big fear about the byway was that it would divert huge amounts of traffic away from the core and turn it into a ghost town. But two months after the byway opened, businesses along First Avenue are thrilled that semi-trucks are no longer barreling through town and trying to make a 90 degree corner at Cedar Street.
"It's been wonderful," said Cathie Carlson of Northwest Handmade Furniture. "The trucks would fly through. People didn't want to stop."
Before the bypass, the downtown core was described simply as a mess; three lanes of northbound traffic, parallel parking at your own risk and people trying not to get hit while crossing the street.
That all changed when the bypass opened.
"We've had people come in who've never stopped before," said Carlson.
The roar of the cattle trucks is gone. The golden leaves on the street are now stirred by the soft October wind instead of the rush of traffic. The byway not only brought a slower pace to downtown, but it's opened up a whole new view of the area, giving people a better idea of what Sandpoint has to offer.
"No one had any idea there was a flat water outlet from the lake that you can kayak on," said Delavan. "They had no idea the lake was right there."
Delavan opened Mountain Essentials a couple months before the byway opened but grew up in Sandpoint. He's excited about the prospects of bringing events such as a parade and car shows back to downtown.
"These things are now within our reach because we don't have a highway," said Delavan.
While a little serenity has returned to 1st Avenue, and shoppers are able to mosey about the shops without the rumble of trucks, there is at least one problem.
"I get a lot of complaints because there's no on ramp on this end," said Debbie Harding, manager of the Cenex gas station near the Long Bridge.
Harding said business at the gas station hasn't dropped since the byway opened but there are other owners who are giving it a little more time before making a judgment.
The project also added the Sandpoint Byway Trail that runs along the east side of Sand Creek.
While some people may criticize the concrete and steel structure running up the creek, Tim, who works at the Cedar Street Bistro said it may just help preserve some the Sandpoint's beauty.
"The way they built it, it created a nice greenbelt between Sandpoint and Ponderay that can't really be developed," said Tim.
The final step to returning the downtown core to it's original small town feel is the rerouting of Highway 2 between Lake and Cedar Street toward 5th Avenue. Construction on that project is slated to begin in 2013.