Friday, July 25, 2008

High occupancy lanes still considered for H-75 expansion

ITD tells Mountain Rides board that plan doesn’t preclude HOV

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia complained to the board of Mountain Rides Transportation Authority on Wednesday that its bus systems are too restrictive for bicycle riders. The buses, as shown here in Hailey, only have accommodations to carry three bikes at a time. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Idaho Transportation Department reassured board members of Mountain Rides Transportation Authority at their Wednesday meeting that high occupancy vehicle lanes are still a likelihood for the state Highway 75 expansion project for the Wood River Valley.

"It will be considered in the design process," said ITD Project Manager Mike Scott, noting that high occupancy lanes were not mentioned in the preferred alternative in the final environmental impact statement.

ITD District Engineer Devin Rigby told the Idaho Mountain Express earlier that high occupancy lanes were not included in the preferred alternative because they are an "operational issue, not a construction issue."

Scott further assured the Mountain Rides board that additional bus pullout areas not specifically mentioned in the final environmental impact statement will also be considered in the design process.

"We may have to add bus turnouts in areas where there's been a lot of growth," he said.

Scott told the board that the start of construction on the highway expansion, which will run from Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue to Saddle Road in Ketchum is still three years away.

He said the record of decision is been forwarded to the Federal Highway Administration and ITD is hopeful of approval within the next few weeks.

"That's the critical document that we need and we are waiting anxiously for the ink to dry on that document, Scott said.

Initial work will consist of aerial and ground surveys, right-of-way acquisition studies and design.

The board also heard from Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia who complained that the Mountain Rides bus systems are too restrictive for bike riders because buses are only equipped to haul three bicycles at a time.

"It's still not satisfactory how you're treating bicyclists after you sucker them in to taking public transportation," Garcia said. "You're supposed to be customer friendly."

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