Friday, July 30, 2010

Officials eye land for Highway 75 project

Up to 44 parcels could be impacted during 1st phase of widening work

Express Staff Writer

Work on the first phase of the extensive reconstruction of state Highway 75—which will take place along a stretch that passes the St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center—is expected to begin sometime in 2013. Photo by David N. Seelig

For the Express

Officials with the Idaho Transportation Department might begin making financial offers for land needed to allow the first phase of the extensive reconstruction of state Highway 75 to proceed as soon as this fall.

The first phase of the "Timmerman-to-Ketchum" highway project encompasses a 3.25-mile stretch of highway between Timber Way, just north of East Fork Road, and the Big Wood River Bridge near St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, south of Ketchum.

ITD hopes to begin work on this stretch as soon as snow levels allow in early 2013. Work to relocate utilities will likely begin the previous fall.

According to Mike Scott, ITD's District 4 right-of-way supervisor based in Shoshone, work on the overall design of the first phase is about 55 percent complete. Once completed, the stretch of highway will vary between four to five lanes, with a center turning lane on the wider sections, he said.

Still, some design details remain to be hammered out.

"We're about to move into the final design process on the project," Scott said during an interview Wednesday.

Some of those final details include working with adjacent landowners whose properties will be partially impacted by the highway work. Scott said up to 44 individual parcels have been identified by highway planners along the first section. He said about 35 of the cases will involve outright purchases of right of way, with the rest being easements.

ITD will have a property assessor evaluate each parcel, with payment offers to the landowners perhaps coming as soon as this fall.

"Generally, we've had really good reception from the landowners," Scott said.

Though ITD does have the power of eminent domain at its disposal, officials have said they prefer not to use it. Scott said it doesn't look like the department will have to resort to eminent domain in this project.

"It's always a possibility, but we like to avoid that if we can," he said. "We make every effort to reach an agreement with the property owner."

Scott said the department does not have an estimate for how much the right-of-way and easement purchases will cost.

The first phase of the Highway 75 project is centered around what's been called the South Gateway area, a spot the county has been eyeing for rezoning and mixed-use residential and commercial construction. Scott said ITD has worked closely with the county so the highway project matches up with the county's vision for the high-visibility area.

ITD officials plan to hold an open house somewhere in the valley to discuss the final design for the first phase sometime in September 2011.

The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $19 million. ITD has previously reported that funding is secure for the first phase.

The overall project involves reconstruction and expansion of the roadway along the 27-mile stretch of highway from Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue to Saddle Road in northern Ketchum.

The whole project is estimated to cost $250 million. Funding is not yet secured for the entire project and ITD has not yet released a construction schedule.

Jason Kauffman:

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