Wednesday, January 18, 2006

No highway education


People who believe expansion of state Highway 75 between Timmerman Hill and Ketchum is going to make the valley's commuting woes go away once and for all are going to be disappointed in what the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on highway improvement has to say.

But to find out why, they will have to scare up one of the handful of 1,100-page draft environmental impact statements on file at local city halls, county P&Z office and Ketchum Community Library and then wade through it. They could get a copy on CD, but it is difficult to examine well on a computer.

Consequently, we doubt many people are well informed about what the Idaho Transportation Department's consultants have in mind for the valley's lifeline. That's unfortunate given that a five-hour hearing on the DEIS is scheduled Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Blaine County Senior Center in Hailey from 3-8 p.m.

Before any hearing, the consultants should have conducted a massive education seminar on highway alternatives for local governments and the public. It's strange that they spent months gathering ideas, and no time explaining their recommendations.

That's a shame because the highway will impact the economy, commuters, residences and the valley's appearance.

A new 5-lane highway will cost $110 million. It will reduce travel time by 11 minutes between Timmerman Hill and Ketchum during peak periods by the year 2025. It will buy five minutes between Hailey and Ketchum. It will also buy some 6-lane intersections, pedestrian underpasses, and a few 500- to 600-foot long retaining walls and noise walls of up to 12 feet tall.

The valley deserved to be better informed before residents were asked to weigh in on this complex issue.




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