Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Need for speed in Sun Valley

Council protests proposed 45 mph speed limit on Highway 75


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

A speed limit reduction planned to coincide with an expansion of state Highway 75 south of Ketchum has Sun Valley officials concerned about further isolation of Sun Valley from a new airport proposed south of Bellevue.

"The reason for the highway improvement is to get visitors to Sun Valley and Ketchum," said Councilman Bob Youngman during a meeting Tuesday. "To not have the maximum speed limit is incredibly short-sighted."

Youngman and the rest of the council were in agreement that a plan by the Idaho Transportation Department to change the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph on 11 miles of Highway 75 between Hailey and Ketchum would impact tourists and daily commuters unnecessarily.

They said the decrease would add to bottlenecks in Bellevue and Hailey where drivers have to slow down to 25 mph already.

"The drive is arduous at best," said Youngman. "How can we stop this?"

Idaho Transportation Department engineer Devin Rigby told the council that discussions with landowners and city and county officials began six years ago to develop a plan for the highway expansion, including an environmental impact statement that addressed safety and noise issues.

Rigby said the new, four-lane design of the highway would remove shoulders on the existing highway. He said the lower speed limit would also increase driver safety at the East Fork traffic light between Hailey and Ketchum.

He said re-evaluating the proposed speed limit changes would involve "major steps backwards," but that following the establishment of an engineering plan for the highway, speed limits could be reassessed if studies call for them to be increased.

"We would have to stop the design process and reopen the environmental impact statement," Rigby said.

Councilman Dwayne Briscoe said plans in Hailey to narrow the highway as it passes through town would further hinder ease of travel northward.

"In reality, the new airport is getting further and further away," Briscoe said.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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