Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In plain sight

Before the water heats up around the so-called recent "discovery" of reduced speed limits on the proposed five-lane highway between Bellevue and Ketchum, someone needs to grab a calculator and do some simple arithmetic.

Sun Valley City Council member Nils Ribi recently said the local transportation advisory group, of which he is a member, was surprised to learn about the reduced speed limits. He also said that reducing the speed limit on the highway from 55 mph to 45 mph or less would discourage tourists and hamper workers by adding between 10 and 15 minutes to the commute between Hailey and Ketchum.

The latter is just wrong. The real increase for the 11.9-mile stretch is a little more than 3 minutes one way.

As for the speed reduction being a surprise, the surprise is that anyone on that committee is surprised.

The reduced speed was listed in proposed designs and in the environmental analysis. It was in plain sight. Engineers at open houses discussed it freely.

The reduced speed was key to how long the new highway could meet the escalating traffic demands at the time. Slower speeds allow cars to safely travel closer together and thus allow highways to host more vehicles.

A years-late argument over the speed limit reduction is silly. It's not worth reopening the planning process and delaying construction. It's time to get the highway started and engage the future.

If valley leaders can put aside the speed limits, they can take up what could be a real barn burner: the uniformly ugly industrial-style sound walls that come with standard highway funding.

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