Wednesday, May 13, 2009

County cuts East Fork speed limit

Change from 35 to 25 miles per hour will take effect later this summer


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Juan Gonzales and Gary Wise, with his back to the camera on Tuesday, survey the last section of a one-mile portion of East Fork Road that will be widened this summer. The work will begin May 18.

Drivers traveling along the heavily used main road up the East Fork of the Big Wood River will have to slow down this summer or risk getting a speeding ticket.

On Tuesday, the Blaine County Commission agreed with requests from residents living in the area and voted unanimously to change the speed limit along the lower mile of the road to 25 miles per hour. The current speed limit along that stretch of road beginning at the bridge over the main Big Wood River and extending to Ranch Road is 35 mph.

The speed limit change won't take place until some time in late July or early August when a major widening project along the same stretch of roadway is completed.

This isn't the first time that the issue of speed limits along the increasingly used road accessing recreational areas in the Pioneer Mountains has been raised. In the past, the idea of lowering the limit has been met with resistance from county commissioners as well as the Blaine County Sheriff's Office and the county Road and Bridge Department.

But this time around, the current commissioners seemed more amenable to the idea, especially after hearing that the sheriff's office and road and bridge department now support it.

"I could go along with 25 miles per hour," Commissioner Tom Bowman said.

Capt. Ed Fuller told the commission that the sheriff's office will support whatever decision they make, even if that means sending more cruisers to patrol the road.

"We'll try to put an emphasis on that area," he said.

Most members of the public who spoke during the discussion supported the idea of lowering speed limits in the mile-long area, which has multiple entrances to private residences. East Fork resident Wendy Collins reminded the commissioners that the speed limit will already need to be lowered during the construction project.

She said the temporary drop in the speed limit in the construction area could serve as a way to "retrain people" prior to the speed limit changing officially. If the drop in speed limit doesn't work out in the end, the county could always reverse its decision, she said.

"It's a lot easier to raise it," Collins said.

At the request of East Fork residents living in the Triumph area, the commissioners also agreed to allow two seasonal road bumps to be placed where the road passes through the rural community. Last summer, the county allowed residents to install a single speed bump that was removed before winter set in.

The county will review how successfully the two speed bumps have worked later this fall.

Jason Kauffman: jkauffman@mtexpress.com

East Fork road work planned

Reconstruction of East Fork Road will begin Monday, May 18, the Idaho Transportation Department has announced. When completed in early August, the one-mile section of road between the Big Wood River Bridge and a point near Ranch Lane will include two 11-foot travel lanes and two 5-foot painted bike lanes. Disturbed areas within the right-of-way will be seeded with grasses and native vegetation this fall.




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