Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Group lobbies for bike path levy

Asphalt has outlived expectations, engineer says

Express Staff Writer

Voters across Blaine County will have the opportunity May 21 to cast ballots in a special election to determine the fate of a proposed two-year, $3.5 million levy to fix the Wood River Trails bike path, above. Photo by Mountain Express

A group of citizens loyal to the Wood River Trails system has formed to advocate for a $3.5 million levy to fix disintegrating parts of the 20-mile-long bike path.

Thirteen valley residents, including former County Commissioners Tom Bowman and Sarah Michael as well as former Blaine County Recreation District Executive Director Mary Austin Crofts, have created the Champions of the Wood River Trails, a volunteer group lobbying for passage of a two-year levy in May to rebuild and resurface large portions of the Wood River Trail.

The levy is proposed to last two years, collecting $1.75 million each year. Crofts said that works out to about $21 per $100,000 of taxable property value. The special election will be held May 21.

A report compiled by Galena Engineers shows that the trail is experiencing “alligator cracking” (cracking in a web pattern mostly on the edges of the trail surface), horizontal cracks and even cracks in material that has been used to fill previous cracks. Many of the problems are occurring in miles one through four north of Ketchum, the first segment of the trail to be built.

Dick Fosbury, former co-owner of Galena Engineering in Ketchum and head engineer of the Wood River Trails Project, said in an interview that the original asphalt surface, which was laid down beginning in 1984, was designed to have a 20-year life. Regular maintenance has extended that, but both Fosbury and Crofts said that if the surface is not redone soon, it will rapidly deteriorate and become even more expensive to fix.

“Its remaining useful life is going downhill,” Crofts said.

Fosbury said there are some serious structural issues at play currently due to the asphalt’s exposure to extreme heat and extreme cold.

Projects proposed include mostly repair and resurfacing in 13 sections of the path. Most of the problems involve “transverse cracking”—cracking across the width of the path that creates bumps and hazards for bikers.

Other problems include potholes between East Fork and Buttercup Road as well as just south of Hulen Meadows. The area north of Ketchum, the oldest section of the trail, also has deficient drainage and places where the edges have been encroached upon by grass.

Crofts said the bike path is a crucial transportation corridor to the valley. She said that she used to commute from Ketchum to Hailey on her bike using state Highway 75 before the path went in.

“It was scary,” she said. “I’d see kids trying to get from Bellevue to Hailey using the highway.”

County Commissioner Larry Schoen said he has not heard anyone openly oppose the upcoming levy.

“I’ve been approached by a few people about the issue asking me what I know,” he said. “They have simply expressed to me that they want to know more. They don’t necessarily know the scope of the project or why the projects are needed, but they want more information.”

Crofts and Fosbury said they plan to speak with the Parent Teacher Associations at the schools as well as the Ketchum-Sun Valley and Hailey branches of Rotary International and other local organizations to inform people about the project and its scope.

Kate Wutz:

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