Plans for a potential regional traffic management center were at the core of a raucous Thursday meeting of the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The board of KMPO, the federally required and designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for all of Kootenai County, voted 6-3 to accept a report detailing plans for the traffic management center.
The decision followed a lengthy discussion preceded by an even longer public comment period during which more than 20 people gave testimony for over an hour.
The comments were all in opposition to a regional traffic management center for reasons including invasive surveillance, “smart” cities, government overreach and more.
“All of you that voted ‘yes’ are nothing but a bunch of communists,” one woman shouted after the votes were counted.
“All we did was approve the report,” Board Chair Rod Twete responded as others interrupted with echoed shouts of “Communists!”
KMPO board members Dan Gookin, representing Coeur d’Alene; Bruce Mattare, representing Kootenai County; and Jeff Tyler, representing the Post Falls Highway District; cast the dissenting votes, rejecting the report.
The board then unanimously voted to place on the next agenda an action item to remove, stop or continue work on this project.
The meeting was held in the Post Falls City Council chambers at City Hall. At least 130 people squeezed into seats or stood shoulder to shoulder against walls and railings.
KMPO has been working toward the development of a regional traffic management center for several years.
A spring 2022 request for proposals for a plan to develop the center led to the award of a $400,000 contract to Iteris, a California based company that provides software, hardware and services for smart mobility infrastructure management.
The contract was paid for by KMPO with federal funds, with the intention of using the plan as a guide for preliminary engineering, design, construction and operation of the traffic management center.
According to meeting minutes from Feb. 9, 2023, KMPO’s technical committee, the Kootenai County Area Transportation Team (KCATT), felt the traffic management center should have the capability to observe the transportation network in real time via video cameras placed at critical arterials. This would help to quickly identify issues impeding traffic and allow for coordinated interagency response.
KMPO Executive Director Glenn Miles noted at the time that the traffic center would strictly be “a ‘traffic management center’ for the purpose of ensuring the public reaches their destination safely, efficiently and reliably.”
Board member and Rathdrum Mayor Vic Holmes said he wasn’t there to make a campaign pitch. He said he has never taken a vote caring whether he would be re-elected.
“I vote for what is for the betterment of the community, and that’s all I’ve ever done,” he said.
Holmes said he couldn’t make a decision without having all the information, unlike Tyler, who spoke for several minutes about why he is against the project. Mattare was booed when he said he would like to hear from people who are in support of it so he could understand a different perspective.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know, if I show a bias one way or another today, I shouldn’t be part of the discussion,” Holmes said. “I’m here and I’d like to hear all the reports, and I’ll make a decision based on that. But if I sit here and say I’m against this today, I should not be part of the discussion because I’ve already made my decision. And I may have a feeling one way or another, but I want to hear the whole report. I want to see what the financial implications are.”
Other KMPO board members are: Sandra White, City of Hayden; Lynn Borders, City of Post Falls; Jim Kackman, Coeur d’Alene Tribe; Graham Christensen, East Side Highway District; Damon Allen, Idaho Transportation Department; and Corinne Johnson, Worley Highway District.
The next KMPO meeting is set for July 13.
By DEVIN WEEKS Staff Writer
Photo by DEVIN WEEKS/Press