Hayden to explore making West Washington a through street to ease traffic from 109-unit development
The town of Hayden will explore the idea of extending West Washington Avenue through to South Poplar Street, a move that hopes to alleviate traffic concerns from a 109-unit development the town’s governing board approved earlier this month.
That 109-unit development — Main Street Apartments — drew staunch opposition from neighbors immediately adjacent and on surrounding streets, with the added traffic the development would bring being a top concern.
At the end of Hayden Town Council’s meeting last week, Council Member Bob Reese made a motion that was not outlined on the agenda to direct town staff to review the idea and include it in the 2024 Budget, allowing the road extension to be built as the development is brought out of the ground.
While the idea drew support from a majority of council, Reese’s motion ultimately failed on a 1-6 vote, with his fellow council members deciding it was unpalatable to make such a decision at the end of a council meeting that had just one member of the public present.
“I don’t know that I’m comfortable making motions, decisions, voting on anything that’s not already included in the agenda for the public,” said Council Member Ed Corriveau. “This wasn’t an agenda item out there for the greater public. … It feels to me like we are making decisions behind closed doors.”
The 109-unit development was approved after the town’s planning commission failed to make a true decision and instead denied the plan in the hopes that the developer would appeal it to the council. It was approved on April 13 in a 6-1 vote with council members saying while there were valid concerns about the project, it was needed to ensure the future of Hayden.
Interestingly, a West Washington extension would make a connection with West Jackson Avenue and not the existing West Washington that is a block south of U.S. 40, aka West Jefferson Avenue. Jackson is two blocks south of Jefferson.
Each of the council members apart from Reese agreed with Corriveau to an extent, with Mayor Ryan Banks questioning what the harm of waiting for the next meeting to have a discussion about the idea would be. Council member Erin Wallace agreed, adding that she wanted more information on extending the road. Council members Trevor Gann, Elaine Hicks and Ryan Lucas said they too were wary of making the decision that night.
“It’s a great idea; it’s probably the next logical step,” Lucas said. “With the dejection and the disillusionment last week, all those people in the audience, we can’t do this to them. This last-minute decision of something that’s not on the agenda that they don’t even know is going to go down tonight, how could we do that?”
Reese expressed frustration about the idea of “kicking the can down the road,” but seemed to accept that his motion would fail after other council members weighed in. Still, he felt that extending the road would address traffic concerns residents had raised.
Reese said other options that were presented — the exit only turn on to U.S. Highway 40 or a new road through property owned by the Hayden School District — were “band-aid” fixes. (The school board is set to consider that additional access at its May Meeting). By connecting the gridded street network, Reese argued it would allow future residents of the development to have options of how to access their homes.
“We need to be proactive,” Reese said. “We’re just going to eliminate so many problems. The traffic congestion trying to go this way or that way. They’re going to be able to flow either way.”
The town does hold easements that would make the road construction possible, though the wide easement of West Washington significantly narrows as it morphs into West Jackson Avenue closer to the intersection with Poplar. The town’s Public Works Director Brian Richards, said estimates for extending the road range from $800,000 to $900,000, though detailed planning would be needed.
While Council did not approve Reese’s motion, there was support from several members. The group is set to start laying out priorities for the 2024 budget in the coming weeks and it seemed sure that the idea would resurface then, if not sooner.
Wallace said she felt it was important that the town board talk about the idea more, as they took the time to listen to residents that would be impacted by the development’s current traffic design. It would only be fair that they listen to residents that would be impacted by this addition as well, she said.
Banks tried to address Reese’s fear that they would just punt on the idea by suggesting they add the item to their next meeting agenda, adding that more time to consider extending the street would help them make a better decision.
“I agree this is a good project,” Banks said. “The thing that I want to make sure we do well, is that if we’re going to taxpayer money to fund this, that it’s the priority. For this specific project, sure. But what about Pine [Street] or Fifth [Street], or all these other streets in town? That’s my concern.”