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For the week of March 6 - 12, 2002

  News

County scales back East Fork Road plans

Residents gather 140 signatures against project


By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Commission unveiled scaled-back plans for a $2 million upgrade to East Fork Road during a packed public meeting Tuesday night. But, the plans may get even smaller before road construction starts. Or, the plans might disappear altogether.

More than 70 citizens showed up for the meeting, almost all of them East Fork residents. For nearly three hours, they criticized the plans, saying a wider road would only encourage speeding, harm the environment and harm property owners.

No one supported the county governmentís plans exactly as they were proposed.

Before deciding whether to go through with the project, the commission will spend the next six weeks considering comments the public made last week and earlier, Chairwoman Mary Ann Mix said.

But whether the commission would base its decision on public sentiment alone was unclear.

The three-member commission would only approve the project with a unanimous vote, she said.

"You elect the three of us to be your vote," she said. "I think itís a cop-out (for the commissioners) to say we canít decide; you decide."

"You get to decide at the ballot box."

Commissioner Sarah Michael indicated how she might vote if the project faces overwhelming public opposition.

"If people out there donít want the road, letís save some money," she said.

Planners working for the county say that the 1940s-era thoroughfare with its abruptly rolling 22-foot-wide strip of asphalt is dangerous and that its surface has deteriorated to the point that it can no longer be repaired.

The plan unveiled last week would widen the asphalt to 26 feet, add a two-foot gravel shoulder on each side and an additional eight-foot "clear zone" on each side to allow drivers a chance to recover if they veer off the asphalt.

At least four short, steep hills would be made less abrupt. But to do so, construction crews would have to cut high up the adjacent hillside, something residents would consider an eyesore.

Guardrails would also be installed along some parts of the 1.8-mile section from the Big Wood River to Canyon Road.

Houses along the road would remain were they stand, but some landscaping that residents have created in the countyís 66-foot-wide right-of-way would be disturbed. No private property would be taken, stated Forsgren Associates, a consulting firm working for the county.

"East Fork for everyone is a close thing to our hearts," said Patrick Csizmizia, who along with several other residents collected signatures against the proposal. "Iím totally against any type of improvement whatsoever."

"We feel the road is fine with the resurfacing and in keeping with the original 1940s design as a county country road," the petition stated. "The proposed changes are not safer and are being moved forward without the approval of East Fork residents."

One-hundred-forty of East Forkís approximately 250 residents signed the petition.

Many residents would like the road to be repaired with little or no change to its design. But federal funding might not be available without design changes. And Mix has said that the countyís road budget, which pays for road repair and snowplowing would not be able to cover the cost of a major overhaul of the road.

Czimazia and other residents were skeptical about the reason for the project. They suggested the availability of federal money is driving the improvements.

Mix said residents had requested the improvements.

The commissionís vision is not to "make it bigger and better" to entice real-estate development, Mix said, but to maintain quality of life for existing residents.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.