For the week of April 14, 1999  thru April 20, 1999  

EMS Council pushes for highway widening in 2000

Elkhorn Road to Timber Way targeted

Express Staff Writer

a14road.jpg (9592 bytes)Bridges, including this one across the Big Wood River south of Lane Ranch, must be widened along with the highway.

As part of Wood River Valley emergency medical services improvements, and in conjunction with construction of a new hospital in Cold Springs, a three-year state highway widening project may be condensed into one year.

At least, that is what the executive committee of the Emergency Medical Services Council has requested of the Idaho Transportation Department.

Widening State Highway 75 between Elkhorn Road and Timber Way to five lanes would enable emergency vehicles to travel through the corridor, which has no alternative routes, even if an accident or other obstruction blocks part of the road.

The project to widen State Highway 75 between Ketchum and Hailey was originally scheduled to begin in 2000 and be completed in 2003. The first area targeted was the roadway between the Greenhorn bridge and East Fork.

The local EMS Council, however, feels it is necessary to complete construction of a much larger section of the highway in as little time as possible to avoid hazards associated with the narrow highway and lack of alternative routes between Ketchum and the mid-valley.

The new St. Luke’s Wood River Valley Hospital is scheduled to open in December 1999. The valley’s two existing hospitals, one in Hailey to the south and the other in Sun Valley to the north, are scheduled to simultaneously close on that date.

The highway widening project requested by the council includes replacing the bridge just north of McHanville with a five-lane structure.

Transportation department district engineer Devin Rigby said it is his intention to complete the additional portion requested in 2000. He pointed out, however, that processing and review of environmental documents by the starting date will be "a major hurdle."

The department must analyze wildlife, fish, plants and socio-economic issues before beginning.

"There are a lot of benefits to condensing the project for the department as well as the community," Rigby said. "For one, we want to disrupt the area as little as possible."

Rigby said traffic will be disrupted as little as possible during construction and two lanes of traffic will remain open throughout construction, with very few exceptions.

South of Ohio Gulch, there are alternative routes along Buttercup Road, as well as Broadford Road between Hailey and Bellevue, in case the current two-lane sections of Highway 75 are closed by accidents or other obstructions.

North of Elkhorn Road, alternative routes exist for emergency vehicles. However, between Ohio Gulch and Elkhorn, the only road is Highway 75.

The executive committee of the EMS Council includes Wood River Medical Center chief executive officer John Moses, County Commissioner Len Harlig, Ketchum Fire Chief Tom Johnson, Wood River Rural Fire Chief Bart Lassman and Dr. Frank Batcha.


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