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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 2 - 8, 2002

News

Six Highway 75 alternatives presented

Design plans rapped by community representatives


By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer

Consultants to the Idaho Transportation Department last week told a group of city officials and community leaders from throughout the Wood River Valley that they are considering at least six design alternatives for a plan to widen Highway 75.

And while a two-hour discussion of a tentative list of alternatives and their individual elements indicated that many in the group thought the options were generally appropriate, some community activists said the state is focusing too much on moving cars and not enough on moving people.

Led by ITD consultants from Utah-based Parsons Brinckerhoff, the discussion last Wednesday in Hailey was part of a series of workshops designed to let community leaders comment directly on proposed configurations of Highway 75 that might best serve the public.

The meeting followed a well-attended day-long forum held by Parsons Brinckerhoff Sept. 17 in Hailey to get comments from the general public. Consultant Diana Atkins at that meeting displayed large-format diagrams of one alternative that proposes to widen the highway to four traffic lanes through most of the valley.

Atkins last week told the group that project managers are trying to develop a broad range of alternatives. "There may be four, there may be 20, there may be six or seven," she said.

In a draft list of alternatives that Parsons Brinckerhoff will consider for detailed evaluation in a mandatory environmental-impact study, the consultants last week identified:

∑ A so-called "No-build" alternative, which would propose no new highway-expansion projects. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that the "No-build" alternative be considered.

∑ A four-lane highway with a center-turn lane through parts of the valley, with smaller options possible in constrained areas.

∑ A four-lane highway with one lane in each direction designated for use only by high-occupancy vehicles during peak traffic hours, plus a center-turn lane. The HOV alternative would be modeled in part after a similar design used to widen Coloradoís Highway 82 through the Roaring Fork Valley between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

∑ An "enhanced" three-lane highway that includes one traffic lane in each direction and a center-turn lane. The enhancements would include eliminating some driveways, installing roundabouts at some intersections, plus building frontage roads and other adaptations to increase traffic flow.

∑ A "No-build" alternative that would include a significant increase in bus service, which would run every five to eight minutes during peak hours, plus installation of park-and-ride lots.

Parsons Brinckerhoff traffic engineer Chuck Green told the group that the alternatives will be advanced as "concepts" for the entire highway corridor, but Atkins noted that some alternatives might be mixed and matched in the end.

In addition, Green noted, the list includes a sixth alternative designed for the highway to meet the stateís so-called "Level of Service C," which is considered an acceptable target on a scale ranging from A to F that rates traffic flow:

∑  The sixth alternative proposes four continuous traffic lanes from Gannett Road to McKercher Boulevard in Hailey, six lanes plus a center-turn lane from Hailey to Serenade Lane in Ketchum, and four lanes from Serenade Lane to Trail Creek Bridge.

Jan Edelstein, representative of the Citizenís Transportation Coalition, said she was disappointed the state has not made a greater effort to include mass transit and carpooling incentives in developing the alternatives.

"I am offended that the only way we are looking to get to state policy is by laying asphalt," Edelstein said.

She put forth a draft of an additional alternative she wants considered, which essentially calls for a combination of three-, four- and five-lane options with significant improvements made to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.

She specifically asked that the highway not be widened between McKercher Boulevard and Buttercup Road, north of Hailey. "Itís our equivalent of Reinheimer Ranch in Ketchum," she said.

Edelstein also noted that she was opposed to a recently approved "Purpose and Need Statement" released by the Federal Highway Administration, because the document focuses on moving vehicles, not people.

The compatibility of alternatives with the statement will be a key factor for federal officials in determining which alternative is selected.

Throughout the meeting, Edelstein, Citizens for Smart Growth representative Angie Saunders and other proponents of alternative transportation questioned why the plans didnít include more provisions for non-motorized and mass transit.

The consultants said the stateóas part of the highway initiativeócould not forward a plan focused solely on new alternative transit opportunities because it would be "called into question" by federal highway officials.

The plan will only include provisions to expand existing public transportation programs, they said.

However, Atkins said she would likely add at least one new alternative to the list based on suggestions made by Edelstein and the group.

 

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