Surprise is not served at any local eatery, but residents could find
themselves dining on it daily if they don’t pay attention. It’s one
of the most unpalatable dishes in America.
meetings this fall, residents will be asked to evaluate what widening
State Highway 75 to include five lanes of pavement plus shoulders will
do to the valley’s quality of life. It’s hard to know, but there are
photographs of the valley floor laid over with highway widths drawn to
scale were displayed this summer in presentations by the Idaho
Transportation Department’s consultants. The documents paint a picture
everyone should understand before they endorse the only highway
improvement option being explored.
Funnel: The highway as drawn is not a five-lane highway all the way
to Ketchum. It’s really a funnel, widest near Bellevue and pinched
down to the neck (Trail Creek Bridge) as it enters downtown Ketchum.
highway would narrow to four lanes near the Elkhorn light, then narrow
again to the two and three existing lanes through Rheinheimer Ranch,
then widen to three or four lanes at Serenade Lane with a new bridge at
Trail Creek as the road enters Ketchum.
The highway is not the high-speed straight shot into Ketchum of which
Five lanes won’t fit into the existing highway right of way in
several places between Hailey and Ketchum, so land will have to be
condemned and purchased. In other places, a wide highway will affect the
of Bellevue the highway would fall very close to the bike path.
Not only would it impact the experience of cyclists in the summer, it
could constrain use by snowmobiles in the winter because the shoulder
would cut into the slope of the old rail bed used by snowmobiles.
of Hailey, it’s a tight squeeze. Drawings show backyards and
front yards of homes near the highway transformed into steep shoulder
sections. The highway consumes half of the existing Idaho Power
substation, portions of existing berms and fences.
Ranch: Legal constraints on highway development through historic
sites will keep the highway in its present form through this area.
of Ketchum near Cold Springs, plans call for the sheep easement,
which parallels the highway on the west, to run onto a narrow elevated
path. A retaining wall would support the path.
highway would go where the easement is now. This would put it beneath a
steep rocky area plagued by snow slides every spring.
highway may also displace local workers from a number of trailer homes
near the highway in this area.
existing highway right of way runs through half of Ski View Lodge’s
little office building.
are torn between constructing full-width lanes or narrower lanes that
would allow construction of sidewalks on both sides of the road in this
also debating what to do with the narrow two-lane bridge over Trail
the highway is a problem for which no one has yet proposed an
who live west of the highway will want to cross to get to the bike path
that parallels the highway on the east. However, there are no key
collection points for crossings because streets do not connect
subdivisions along the highway. All are separate entities.
concede that crossing five lanes of moving traffic can be a
and Bellevue, they are looking at center safety islands that might make
crossings safer for pedestrians.
Consultants recently began musing about highway noise levels. Greater
numbers of cars in more lanes make more noise.
noise could trigger federal requirements for noise reduction measures
that could range from berms to walls. Given the narrowness of the
existing right of way, it’s a good bet that walls would be on the top
of the list because they would be cheap compared to any other option.
Maybe engineers have new tricks, but the only noise barriers we’ve
seen are of the L.A. freeway variety.
traffic: By now, every transportation planner knows that bigger
highways cause more traffic. Why? Because an easier commute encourages
people to live farther from their jobs.
County’s case, this phenomenon will create pressure on Blaine County
to allow high-density subdivisions in the Bellevue Triangle.
National Environmental Policy Act requires transportation departments to
analyze such impacts, but so far consultants have done little except to
say the valley will grow.
clear that a five-lane highway will have far-reaching consequences—even
some that can’t be predicted. Are the tradeoffs worth it? The answer
to that question will make or break the valley for years to come.