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For the week of Oct. 27, 1999 through Nov. 2, 1999

Greenhorn Bridge replacement delayed

Coalition considers alternatives to widening Highway 75


By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer

The Greenhorn Bridge project on state Highway 75, which was originally scheduled to begin Oct. 1, has been postponed indefinitely.

According to ITD senior planner Bob Humphrey, construction is waiting on acquisition of rights of way along Highway 75.

The Idaho Transportation Board recently approved replacement of the 1930s-vintage bridge as part of a five-lane expansion of 2.4 miles of highway from Alturas Drive to Timberway (near East Fork). The project will cost $4.2 million.

"Construction could begin tomorrow or it could be next spring," Humphrey said. "The schedule is totally dependent on when right-of-way acquisitions are completed."

Humphrey declared, however, "Realistically, it probably will not start until the spring."

The board also approved the East Fork Bike Tunnel, a companion project that will provide pedestrian and bike access beneath the highway, connecting Greenhorn and East Fork at a cost of $580,000.

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While transportation officials were busy funding the local projects, the Wood River Valley Citizens Transportation Coalition met Thursday to discuss alternatives to widening Highway 75.

ITD officials declined to attend.

ITD’s Humphrey said his agency didn’t want to get into a debate situation.

He said, "There’s not an awful lot to be gained by that kind of atmosphere."

"If they can come up with a recommendation that addresses the issues of safety, capacity, congestion and access on and off the highway, then we’d be happy to look at it and consider incorporating it into the corridor study," Humphrey concluded.

CTC publicist Jan Edelstein said the group was formed to educate the public and ensure Wood River Valley communities are involved in the highway planning process.

CTC members say alternatives were overlooked in a Highway 75 Corridor Study financed by the Idaho Transportation Department and conducted by CH2M Hill, a Boise-based engineering consulting firm.

Edelstein said the CTC supports highway improvements.

"What the perfect improvements are we don’t know," she said, "but we want the ITD to consider the alternatives.

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The CTC meeting featured Jim Olsen and Linda Dworak who have been involved in researching and designing alternatives to a highway widening project in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

They are part of a group called Friends of the Bitterroot, which delayed and may have prevented a similar highway expansion.

Olsen said construction on the highway was scheduled to begin three-and-a-half years ago, although only two miles have been constructed due to issues raised by the group and pending litigation.

Olsen said "everyone in the Bitterroot Valley agrees the highway needs to be improved, but there’s a lot of discussion about how to do it."

Olsen said the Bitterroot and Wood River Valley highways are similar in that both have traffic counts just over their two-lane capacity. Expansion to four lanes is too big a jump, he said.

As a compromise, Olsen said the safest configuration would be a two-lane highway with center turning lanes, exit lanes and passing lanes where needed. This would have the least impact on the surrounding environment, he said. "When you change the capacity of a highway, you change how people get to where they go, where they live and do business," Olsen said. "Expanding to four or five lanes accelerates growth and encourages strip development."

Dworak said the greatest threat to the community is a lack of public involvement in the planning process.

"Two lanes versus four isn’t the real issue," Dworak said. "The heart of the issue is community, where we live.

"We’re in a time of change in perspective from old to new highway design where the effects of transportation on the environment, quality of life and the economy have to be considered," Dworak said.

"We can’t build ourselves out of congestion," he said. "Solving transportation problems requires a shift in perspective, how we live, how we do things."

There was much discussion about transportation alternatives. No definite ideas or solutions emerged.

The CTC will hold its next meeting on Nov. 8 at the old County Courthouse in Hailey.

 

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