Wednesday, January 25, 2006

City officials endorse HOV lane for Hwy 75

'Open house' unveils details of $110 million project


By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County elected officials united this week to solidify their support for "Alternative 3" of the Idaho Transportation Department's proposed changes to Highway 75. If approved, that alternative would expand Highway 75 into a four-lane highway with a High Occupancy Vehicle lane to better handle the peak hours of commuter traffic through the Wood River Valley.

The Idaho Transportation Department has scheduled a public hearing 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Blaine County Senior Center in Hailey to familiarize residents with proposed alternatives for Highway 75 improvements. The ITD will take comments at the so-called "open house" on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which presents three alternatives for highway expansion and improvements.

The cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey united to offer their input through a joint comment letter. Bellevue and Blaine County held meetings Tuesday to consider the letter. County officials said they support the letter in spirit, but need a final copy, rather than a draft, before signing.

"The point of the joint letter is to show overall support of Alternative 3," Beth Callister, a Ketchum city planner, said.

In a draft of the letter, the cities endorsed Alternative 3, which proposes to expand Highway 75 into a four-lane highway with a High Occupancy Vehicle lane. The HOV lane would be used during peak morning and evening commuter hours for carpools and mass transit. The letter states that Alternative 3 mitigates congestion, improves safety and encourages efficient modes of travel like carpools and buses.

The cities of Sun Valley and Ketchum spearheaded the effort to gain the support of other municipalities. The cities jointly hired Ralph Trapani, an independent federal highway Colorado-based consultant, to review the proposals. Following the consultant's suggestion, the two cities initiated discussions to work with Bellevue, Hailey, Carey and Blaine County.

"The idea is to make the most efficient use out of the plans that will benefit everyone," Callister said.

To increase the opportunity for the public opinions on the proposed alternatives, the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley offer times for public comment at city meetings. All of the public comments will be transcribed and forwarded to the appropriate ITD officials. Opportunities to comment include Ketchum City Council meetings on Feb. 6 and 21, the Ketchum P&Z meeting on Feb. 13, the Sun Valley City Council meeting on Feb. 16 and the Sun Valley P&Z meeting on Feb. 14.

"We want to facilitate people's ability to comment," Callister said.




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