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For the week of Dec. 22, 1999 through Dec. 28, 1999

Council votes to close bridge; power negotiations continue

Express Staff Writer

The Broadway Bridge, which spans the Big Wood River parallel to the Warm Springs Road bridge, was closed by a unanimous vote of the Ketchum City Council on Monday night.

With a city engineer’s recommendation in hand, council members shut down the aging bridge due to structural weakness.

At 9:30 Tuesday morning, concrete barriers were placed at both ends of the bridge.

Pedestrians and bicyclists, however, will still be able to cross the bridge, Ketchum city administrator Jim Jaquet said in an interview.

Two weeks ago, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and the Federal Highway Administration announced the suspension of $517,000 in federal aid to the city if the bridge was not immediately closed, fixed or replaced.

The city is budgeting the federal funds to beautify its downtown in the coming year, a project called "streetscape."

Jaquet sent a letter to the ITD on Tuesday morning, requesting that the suspension of funds be lifted in light of the council’s action.

On Aug. 4, the ITD wrote a letter to Ketchum officials recommending closure of the bridge. The recommendation resulted from routine annual bridge inspections.

For the past five months, the city has revisited the issue periodically. At first, repair was considered, but proved to be too expensive. In more recent meetings, replacing the bridge with a rustic looking wooden or covered structure has been discussed. None of the options the city council had considered went further than discussion until the bridge was officiallyclosed by Monday’s vote.

According to Dick Fosbury of Galena Engineering, the city’s contract engineer, "it’s clear that the (existing) bridge won’t handle any vehicular traffic and should be closed."

Fosbury pointed out the bridge is not even safe for compact cars, which have a 2,000-pound test rating. Full-sized pickup trucks can weigh 8,000 pounds or more, he said.

Galena Engineering, in turn, contracted work from Scott Basolo of Basolo Engineering to determine the bridge’s safe load-carrying capacity.

"I would say without hesitation that under no circumstances should any larger vehicle such as construction delivery, concrete, snowplow or fire apparatus use this structure now or at any time in the future prior to a complete rebuild of the structure with a newly verified load capacity," Basolo wrote in a three-page letter, dated Dec. 14, to Galena Engineering.

Doug Aanestad, a Broadway Boulevard resident, said he was dismayed by the news. With the bridge closed, the only option to access his neighborhood is the Exhibition Boulevard or River Run Drive entrances from Warm Springs Road.

"The Exhibition entrance is unsafe," he said. "It’s an accident waiting to happen, and River Run isn’t much better. Somebody’s going to die there."

To address Aanestad’s and other area residents’ concerns, the council considered putting a stop sign on Warm Springs Road at the Exhibition Road intersection. Ketchum police chief Cal Nevland discouraged that idea, however. He said a stop sign on a road so heavily traveled would create more accidents.

Instead, following a recommendation from Nevland, the council voted to install a right-turn-only sign for those turning off of Exhibition onto Warm Springs.

Other issues discussed or resolved at the meeting:

 The city council continued negotiations with Idaho Power to put in place an agreement that would allow the electricity provider to operate in the city’s rights of way.

Idaho Power community relations representative Dan Olmstead was present to talk with the council.

In an interview following the meeting, city attorney Margaret Simms said the deadlock that has persisted in the negotiations for the past two years didn’t change at the meeting.

During that time, the city has attempted to negotiate for local power lines to be placed underground and for Idaho Power to pay at least part of the cost. Thus far, Idaho Power has refused to consider that.

"We want the power lines underground and Idaho Power is certainly willing to do it as long as we pay for it," Simms told the council.

For now, the city will stand firm, Simms said.

 Monday marked councilmember Sue Noel’s last public appearance as a member of the council. Mayor Guy Coles presented her with a plaque .

"I think this is the finest group anyone could ever serve with on a council," she said. "I have grown to love everyone on the council as personal friends as well as coworkers."

New councilman Maurice Charlat will be sworn into office at the council’s Jan. 3 meeting.

 The council voted unanimously to raise the fine to $25 for those parking on Ketchum’s streets during the winter between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. Previously, the fine was $10.


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