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For the week of March 6 - 12, 2002


Committee given preview of initial Highway 75 document

Process to refine designs moves into next phase

Express Staff Writer

Government officials and highway activists were given a look Thursday at an annotated outline draft of the purpose and need statement for the future development of Highway 75 in the Wood River Valley.

Diana Atkins

The preview was presented by Diana Atkins, the project manager for the National Environmental Policy Act process. Her firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, is overseeing the process for the Idaho Transportation Department.

The purpose and need statement is the second step in the NEPA process. The first was the scoping and issue identification step, which began last October and was recently completed.

Atkins told the Wood River Regional Transportation Committee on Feb. 28 that the purpose and need statement is where "we’re about to get real" about what to do with the highway.

She said that the purpose and need statement is intended to justify to the Federal Highway Administration why federal funds should be allocated to improving the highway.

"The people in Washington know nothing about the Wood River Valley," she said.

"This will be an evolving document, but it will evolve into a public document," she said.

"The exercise for this community is to take the draft and ask questions and add suggestions. It deserves thought," she said.

"I don’t want anyone to get the impression this is the final anything. It is not," she said.

The draft is available from the transportation committee, which is chaired by Ketchum City Councilman Randy Hall.

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon asked Atkins when she wanted resolutions from the different municipalities.

He was referring to the legislation section of the statement, which includes "official letters and resolutions submitted by the cities in the corridor."

Atkins said she would like to see resolutions as soon as possible, especially those "that anticipate a change in what the communities may be doing."

She said the reason the resolutions were important to the purpose and need statement is that they "provide feedback to the FHWA."

"It’s a comfort factor for them," she said. "They are not required, but they are helpful."

Whereas the purpose and need statement is about identifying problems, the next step in the NEPA process, the definition of alternatives, is about solutions.

Atkins told the committee that one of the things that happens in the definition of alternatives is something called design level mapping.

Here, maps are drawn that show things like highway shoulders, numbers of lanes, and facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists and commuters.

"We hope to have lines on the map by the end of June," Atkins said.

Audience member Mickey Garcia told Atkins that the NEPA process so far had not included input from a large group of highway users.

He included taxi drivers, garbage truck drivers, people who haul freight, construction workers and people making deliveries.

Chairman Hall said he had begun reaching out to contractors and construction workers by contacting David Hennessy, a member of a local contractors association.

Atkins said she would contact the rubbish disposal companies, contractors and those who haul freight.

Hall brought another document relating to the NEPA process to the committee’s attention, the "SH-75 Corridor 2025 Population and Employment Forecasts."

The population and employment forecasts will be used in the NEPA process to help determine how many daily trips will burden the highway by the year 2025.

Atkins said that she would be providing "better and fuller definitions of the assumptions" that went into these forecasts for those reviewing the document.

The next highway work group meeting facilitated by Atkins will be March 19. These meetings are open to the public, but public comment is only taken after conclusion of the committee’s agenda.

Then next meeting of the Wood River Regional Transportation Committee is March 28.

People who are interested in talking with their committee representatives can reach Randy Hall through Ketchum City Hall.


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.