Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hwy 75 meet offers chance to comment

'Open house' unveils details of $110 million project

Express Staff Writer

The public's only scheduled opportunity to formally ask questions about the planned $110 million changes to state Highway 75 through the Wood River Valley will come at an "open house" Thursday, Jan. 26, in Hailey.

For five hours between 3 and 8 p.m., a team of some 12 federal and state highway officials, as well as consultants, will be on hand at the Blaine County Senior Center, 721 Third Ave. S., to explain details of the project. There is no formal program and the public can roam the room inspecting displays.

In addition to give-and-take with the officials, the public can write pro or con comments or make recorded audio comments about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which precedes federal approval and funding of the work.

The centerpiece of the session, according to Diana Atkins, of the Utah office of consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, will be more than a dozen 9-foot-wide aerial-type conceptual illustrations of proposed highway expansion and improvements.

Other graphics will outline the need for highway improvements, impacts on valley transportation, noise and wetlands impact and a timeline of the project.

Atkins said that final comments on the DEIS are not due for another month—by Feb. 24. So, attendees at the open house can continue to review printed copies of the DEIS that are available throughout the valley before submitting comments.

Copies can be reviewed at city halls in Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley, at the Ketchum Community Library, and at the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Department in Hailey, as well as at the Idaho Transportation Department district office in Shoshone.

The planned improvements, which include widening the highway at several spots, are designed to handle projected vehicle traffic until the year 2025. However, according to the DEIS, expanded bus service won't attract more than about 30 percent of all commuter traffic.

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