Friday, January 7, 2011

Broadford to become broader?

County to apply for federal improvement money

Express Staff Writer

A bend in Broadford Road could be widened, straightened or both if the county is awarded a $2.5 million grant from the Federal Transportation Administration. Though road residents have historically been resistant to improvements, the County Commissioners and staff have stated that any improvements made will be approved through the public process. Photo by David N. Seelig

To an outsider, the meandering. 4.5-mile Broadford Road linking Hailey and Bellevue seems like an ordinary county road, hardly worth the $2.5 million in federal funding for improvements that the Blaine County Commissioners have announced they will apply for. But Char Nelson, the county's director of operations, sees it differently.

"Should there be an event on Highway 75, Broadford Road is the only access to the south county," Nelson said. "It's an evacuation route."

The commissioners announced Tuesday that they would apply for federal funding to possibly widen, straighten and smooth part of Broadford Road.

"We know how many problems that road has had," said Commissioner Larry Schoen during the board's meeting Tuesday.

Broadford falls under the jurisdiction of three municipalities: the county, the city of Bellevue, and the city of Hailey. The county's portion is 3.9 miles, sandwiched between the cities' segments.

Nelson said the road is in desperate need of improvement.

"It's not built to county standards," she said. "The width of the road is inconsistent, and there are some concerns with a couple of turns."

However, Schoen said, the road's residents have not always welcomed suggestions for Broadford improvements.

"People who live along Broadford Road always have mixed feelings about this," he said, mainly because widening and straightening the road might lead to a speed increase.

However, Nelson said the county's application does not obligate it to complete any improvements if the grant is awarded. She said improvements will only be designed as part of a public process that would include public hearings, and as part of a larger county transportation plan.

"There are a lot of residents who like the road as it meanders," Nelson said. "It's a beautiful road to drive through. All of those things will be considered."

The county's application comes in conjunction with an application from the city of Bellevue to improve its portion of the road. Nelson said she would note Bellevue's similar application in the county's appeal for funds, in hopes that this might increase the county's chances of approval.

The funding would come from the Federal Highway Administration's Surface Transportation Program. Currently, $11 million in funding is available for improvements to Idaho's roads.

If the grant is awarded and accepted by the county, the county is required to match a little over 7 percent of the funds, estimated to be $180,000.

Nelson said the county would submit its application to the Idaho Transportation Department by Jan. 14. The state will then review the application and decide by the end of the month whether to pass it on to the Federal Highway Administration.

Katherine Wutz:

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