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For the week of Oct. 13, 1999 through Oct. 19, 1999

Highway corridor study is sales tool


What did we learn at the last open house of the Highway 75 Corridor Study?

We learned the study is misnamed. It is not a study at all, but a sales tool designed to sell a giant highway as the only answer to the valley’s traffic woes.

If the study were really a study, we would have learned a lot. Here’s a list of what we didn’t learn:

  • How safety on a five-lane highway compares to safety on three-lane roads with lower speed limits.

  • Why the greater margin of safety afforded by a second traffic lane into which cars may swerve to avoid hazards isn’t offset by the danger of a 55 mph highway butted up against power poles.

  • Where trees, homes or buildings would have to be moved or removed. For example, what will happen to the old Rheinheimer farm house near Ketchum?

  • How a nearly 50-yard-wide highway will affect valley vistas--the artist’s renderings were not to scale.

  • Strategies to reduce congestion.

We did learn that with enough artistic license, a major five-laner can be shoved into a two-or three-lane space. Too bad we haven’t met the engineers who can do that.

The study failed to ask the "what if" questions.

For example, what if:

  • Ketchum imposed pay parking all over town tomorrow?

  • A valley-wide bus system were running?

  • People lived closer to their jobs?

  • Five hundred units of affordable housing—the amount researchers say is needed—were built in the northern part of the county?

  • Communities identified labor-intensive businesses that don’t need a Ketchum location and helped them re-locate to Hailey or Bellevue?

  • The county encouraged flex-time work schedules that don’t put everyone on the highway at the same time?

  • The traffic mix were studied to find out who is on the highway and where they are going most days? There may be answers to be found here.

  • The county forced connections between subdivisions so that everyone isn’t forced onto the highway for even a simple trip to the grocery store?

  • Neighborhood grocery stores were allowed in the county?

  • The 15 stoplights contemplated for the future were installed now to increase safe access onto and across the highway?

  • The speed limit were reduced now to improve safety?

  • The county conducted a traffic education program, let people see congestion numbers and helped them schedule travel at off-peak times?

There’s no question Highway 75 needs improvement. There’s no question it’s time to address traffic congestion.

However, whether this year or 10 years from now, the valley will have to find traffic solutions more innovative than laying more asphalt.

If a little outside-the-box thinking isn’t applied soon, the valley will become just another beautiful place destroyed when King Car rules.

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.