Transportaton director to answer Highway 75 questions
Meeting is set for next week
By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer
Idaho Department of Transportation director Dwight Bower will be in the
Wood River Valley next week to participate in a workshop with valley leaders and concerned
citizens about a proposed widening of state Highway 75.
The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. at the Wood
River Middle School in Hailey.
Three hours is planned for the meeting, but only the last 20 minutes is
reserved for public comment, according to Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, the meetings
Bower, a former Colorado transportation official, "understands the
sensitivity of issues surrounding highway expansion here in the Wood River Valley,"
In a telephone interview last week, Bower said he has "a pretty
open mind to listening and trying to understand what peoples concerns are and
translating those concerns into developing a safe and efficient transportation system that
people can live with." "There needs to be an open discussion where people can
state their concerns," he said. "The ITD needs to be sensitive to that."
Also attending the workshop will be Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum,
Rep. Tim Ridinger, R-Jerome, and staff members from the Idaho Transportation
Departments Shoshone regional office and its Boise-based engineering consultant
firm, CH2M Hill.
Since last years unveiling of a Highway 75 corridor
studywhich proposes to widen the highway to five lanes from Timmerman Hill to Saddle
Road over the next 20 yearsmany residents have expressed concern over the
projects impact on the valleys lifestyle.
The concern led to the creation of the Citizens Transportation
Coalition (CTC), a local highway activist group.
CH2M Hill based its study on projected growth and traffic forecasts,
which, highway officials have indicated, translate into the need for a wider highway to
The CTC agrees that highway improvements are needed, but says
consideration of alternatives and the projects aesthetic impacts should be included
in the study.
According to Jaquet, the workshops goal is to bring leaders of
the community together to continue dialog about the highway in the context of the
Jaquet said the two main highway issues are safety and maintaining the
character of the valley.
"I believe it is important for our elected officials to work
together to find a solution that addresses the safety and aesthetic concerns voiced by the
residents of our county," Jaquet wrote in a memo to all Wood River Valley elected
Jaquet said the highway debate requires more conversation on a public
level and among city and county leaders to determine what that solution should be.
Bower emphasized the corridor study is still being drafted and that
widening the highway to five lanes is only a proposal at this point.
"The ITD is charged with the responsibility to provide safe and
efficient transportation for residents and visitors," he said. "Trying to
balance those needs with aesthetic concerns is what were trying to do. "Instead
of just coming in and saying this is what we want to do, were trying to make it a
partnership between the ITD, elected officials and residents of the community."
Bower said all the problems and issues surrounding highway expansion in
the Wood River Valley cant be solved in one night, but will require discussion over
a period of time.
CTC publicist Jan Edelstein said Bower comes highly recommended as
being very accessible and an innovative transportation planner.
"Were delighted that Jaquet has stepped in and worked to get
Bower here to talk with public officials," Edelstein said. "We hope that he will
also be open to the concerns expressed by various citizens of the valley.
"Im told he was active during the early days of Aspens
thinking about long-term transportation plans so he knows about resort communities."
Edelstein said planning for the future of transportation in the Wood
River Valley should go beyond car counts, daily trips and traffic projections. "Lets
talk about what this place is going to look and feel like in 20 years," she said in
Edelstein said the ITD has made its projections based on daily trips
and the number of cars a highway of two, three, four or five lanes can carry.
"Going by the ITDs projections, if you relied only on cars,
a three-lane highway may not be adequate beyond the year 2012," she said. However,
she added, "A well engineered three-lane highway can be adequate if you include
Edelstein said the CTC is interested to hear from the ITD about what
role alternative transportation methods will play in the long-term transportation plan.
"No matter what the solution, alternatives should be
included," Edelstein said. "This will be a real change in where the corridor
study was headed.
"The corridor study focused on one tool to address traffic in the
Wood River Valley and that tool is pavement. That was the mindset, the direction. What we
are hoping is that the ITD will now approach the corridor study with more tools in the
tool box through the consideration of alternatives."