A draft environmental impact statement that moves eventual widening and improvement of state Highway 75 through the Wood River Valley one step closer was unveiled Thursday, Dec. 15, for public review and comment.
The bulky, 1,100-page DEIS will be available to the public beginning Monday, Dec. 19, throughout the valley at Bellevue City Hall, Hailey City Hall, Blaine County Planning and Zoning, Ketchum City Hall, Sun Valley City Hall and in Shoshone at the Idaho Department of Transportation district office.
A final public hearing on the EIS will be held from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Blaine County Senior Center, 721 Third Ave. South, in Hailey.
The DEIS, which includes material from extensive public hearings and is heavily illustrated, is required by the Federal Highway Administration before final approval of the plan to begin construction.
Diana Atkins, with the Utah consulting firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff, said final federal approval of the project should come by next summer. She said no hitches are expected to develop.
However, the original estimated cost of $110 million for the 27-mile project between Ketchum and the intersection of Highway 75 and U.S. Highway 20 will be higher because of the significant price increases of land that must be acquired for rights of way.
The improved Highway 75 is designed to accommodate traffic through at least 2025.
Two alternative scenarios are included in the DEIS, which has meticulous details about possible construction dimensions, land acquisition, traffic controls and the like.
The single difference in the alternatives is one highway lane being converted to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) use during heavy traffic hours between McKercher Boulevard in northern Hailey and Hospital Drive south of Ketchum.
Otherwise, both plans include:
· U.S. Highway 20 to Gannett Road: one 12-foot lane in each direction, a 14-foot center turn lane, 8-foot shoulders and a passing lane.
· Gannett Road to Fox Acres Road: two 12-foot lanes in each direction and a center turn lane of varying width and 8-foot shoulders.
· Fox Acres Road to McKercher Boulevard through the Hailey business district: pedestrian crossing improvements only, no widening.
· McKercher Boulevard to Elkhorn Road: two 12-foot lanes in each direction, a 14-foot center turning lane and 8-foot shoulders.
· Elkhorn Road to River Street in Ketchum: widening only within the existing highway right of way, possibly with striping to denote wider or narrower lanes.
Improvements will have noticeable impact in some areas, according to the draft EIS, including:
· Relocation of 12 residences and two commercial properties and acquisition of 133.3 acres for new rights of way.
· Acquisition of 59 acres of farmland for right of way.
· Two locations designated for possible noise barriers.
· Improved stream crossings at four locations, replacement of 21 irrigation culverts and improved flood plain conditions at two locations.
· Removal of roadside vegetation and impacts on berms.
· Loss of 1.19 acres of wetlands.
· Relocation of overhead and underground utilities.
In a newsletter published in conjunction with the full DEIS, the consultants listed some alternatives discussed throughout the hearing process and studies over the past nearly six years, including carving a new traffic corridor through the valley; reversible peak-hour traffic lanes on Highway 75, and light rail transit.
The draft EIS also includes proposed improvements to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, such as three underpasses between McKercher Boulevard in Hailey and the East Fork Road intersection.
The study also predicts that although more people will be using public transportation and carpools by the year 2025, 65 to 70 percent of travel in the Highway 75 corridor still will be in single-occupancy vehicles.
In the study, project engineers conclude that the corridor will continue to be below what is known as "Level of Service A," a free flow of vehicle traffic. Most of the corridor will be level C and D with one level E and one level B. (The HOV lane, if adopted, would provide limited level A service.)