Friday, April 4, 2008

Public gets one more shot at highway EIS

Comment period extended for Highway 75 document

Express Staff Writer

    It’s not even officially a public comment period, but the public has one more chance to express opinions about the final environmental impact statement for the planned expansion of state Highway 75 in the Wood River Valley.
    But it might be too late to change the plan as outlined by the Federal Highway Administration and the Idaho Transportation Department in the EIS.
    “Unless there is something significant that could change the alternative as selected in the FEIS, it is highly unlikely that the decision will change,” said Diana Atkins, project manager with Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering firm contracted by ITD to prepare the document. “But any comment we receive will be addressed in the record of decision.”
    The unofficial public comment period, which also gives various federal, state or local agencies a final shot at the document, started March 28 with publication of the final EIS in the Federal Register. Typically, there is a 30-day time frame when comments can be taken before issuance of a record of decision, but the highway issue has been closely followed in the Wood River Valley and the highway administration decided to extend the comment period from April 28 to May 9.
    Once finalized, the record of decision, often known as the ROD, becomes the legal document that ITD and the highway administration must abide by in building the project.
    Plans for making Highway 75 more commuter friendly have been in the making for about 10 years. The alternative selected in the EIS for the 27-mile stretch of highway between Timmerman Junction and north Ketchum calls for building a four-lane road between Bellevue and Ketchum and widening the highway from Bellevue south to the junction. Center turning lanes would be build along most of it.
    The project is estimated to cost $200 million. ITD has about $22 million in pocket to get it started.

    Copies of the EIS are available locally in Bellevue at City Hall and the library. They’re also available in Hailey at City Hall and the library and at the Blaine County Planning and Zoning office.
    Up north, review copies can be found at Ketchum and Sun Valley city halls as well as the Community Library.
    Instructions on how to comment are included inside the cover of the EIS.
    Copies can also be obtained on CD-ROM from Atkins by calling her at (801) 288-3227 or by sending her an e-mail at
    She’s also available to answer questions by telephone or e-mail.

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