Friday, December 7, 2012

ITD considering use of wildlife sensors

Mountain Rides moving on south valley transportation center

Express Staff Writer

An elk crosses state Highway 75 south of Ketchum. Express file photo

The Idaho Transportation Department is seriously considering placing wildlife-sensing devices along state Highway 75 to alert drivers to the presence of large animals near the roadway.

“We’re going forward, looking at the funding and some conceptual things,” ITD District Engineer Devin Rigby said at a meeting of the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee on Thursday.

Rigby said the biggest glitch he sees in the plan is finding someone to maintain the devices, which he said need frequent adjustment and monitoring.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to do that,” he said. “I do not have maintenance staff to put into that effort. I’d be pulling my staff out of snowplows to do this.”

He suggested that a partnership for maintaining the devices might be worked out with one or more of the government entities on the transportation committee.

Rigby said there are several different systems used elsewhere to alert drivers to the presence of wildlife, but that they all basically have sensors and flash a warning to drivers, advising lower speeds and caution.

The transportation committee has recently been interested in doing something to mitigate the large number of accidents, particularly this fall, between vehicles and deer and elk. While the number of accidents seems to have declined, during October the average was about three accidents per week in Blaine County.


Mountain Rides news

In other business before the committee, Mountain Rides Transportation Authority Executive Director Jason Miller said his organization is close to finalizing a deal to build a south valley transportation center in Bellevue. However, Miller said the plan requires approval from the Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission, which would have to amend the city’s zoning ordinance to accommodate the plan.

A public hearing was held by the P&Z Thursday evening.

Miller noted that Bellevue officials have some concerns about the proposed transportation center, especially about the size of a park and ride.

He said the park and ride would be about the same size as one in Hailey that holds about 40 vehicles.

“We’ve got to get them thinking that it’s not going to be like a Wal-Mart parking lot,” Miller said.

Mountain Rides intends that the proposed center would be built on a 2.97-acre parcel near the intersection of Highway 75 and Gannett Road. In addition to the property, the parcel includes a 4,480-square-foot two-story building. Previously the site was used by All Seasons Landscaping, which about two years ago moved its operation to Anderson Drive, about three miles south of Bellevue.

Mountain Rides has made an offer of $780,000 to buy the property from owner Gannett 75 LLC. However, Miller noted that finalizing the deal depends upon approval from the city of Bellevue.

“We’ve got a willing seller, we’ve got a willing buyer, we’ve basically agreed to terms,” he said.

Mountain Rides has about $1 million set aside for the property purchase and site renovations, with $800,000 provided by a grant from the Federal Transportation Authority and the remainder in 20 percent local matching funds.

If the deal goes through, the transportation center would provide a facility to maintain and house Mountain Rides buses, a waiting area for northbound bus passengers, an administrative office and storage space, and a park and ride.

In a handout that Miller provided at the meeting, Mountain Rides claims that the center would benefit the city of Bellevue by redeveloping and improving an existing property that is currently unused and vacant.

“This project would create a new center of activity that would be attractive and would draw in people who otherwise wouldn’t stop in Bellevue,” the handout states. “This could drive more business to local Bellevue businesses.”

Terry Smith:

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