Friday, September 5, 2014

ITD considers 3 lanes over bridge

Agency seeks input from regional transportation committee

Express Staff Writer

Idaho Sand & Gravel Co. crews work on Wednesday to pave the top layer of the northbound lanes on a 3.25-mile widening project on state Highway 75 south of Ketchum. The Idaho Transportation Department anticipates paving will be completed next week and the project completely finished by Sept. 25. Photo by Roland Lane

The Idaho Transportation Department is seeking the opinions of local officials and community leaders before deciding whether or not to restripe the bridge over the Big Wood River near St. Luke’s Wood River hospital south of Ketchum to accommodate three lanes of traffic.
    ITD Resident Engineer Justin Price presented the proposition to the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee at its monthly meeting Thursday. Price explained that if the bridge is restriped it would be done in conjunction with completion of a state Highway 75 widening project that will convert the highway south of the bridge into four lanes.
    Price said ITD anticipates that the widening project, which involves a 3.25-mile section of Highway 75 from Timber Way just north of East Fork Road to the bridge near St. Luke’s, will be finished by Sept. 25.
    ITD is working on a second Highway 75 project to replace the current structure that spans the river near St. Luke’s with a new four-lane bridge. However, completion of that bridge is still three years away.
    With the current bridge configuration, two lanes of northbound traffic will be merged into one lane at the bridge entrance when the highway project is finished. Southbound traffic currently has two lanes of traffic north of the bridge that merge into a single lane several hundred yards north of the bridge entrance.
    Price said the bridge is 40 feet wide and as currently configured has two lanes for traffic, each at 12 feet wide, and has shoulders 8 feet wide on each side.
    Restriping for three lanes would provide three lanes 12 feet wide each and only 2-foot-wide shoulders on each side, which Price said is not wide enough for bicycle traffic.
    “We don’t know that you want that; it’s going to be pretty tight,” Price said.
    Jim Keating, executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District, which manages the Wood River Trail bike path, noted that a repaving project for the bike path is currently under way and that once the work starts in the vicinity of the bridge that the path will be closed and bike travel will only have the highway bridge to get across the river.
    “My only concern is we’re going to have that only other artery closed for three weeks,” Keating said.
    Price asked that members of the transportation committee provide input on the striping idea by early next week. He also asked committee members to provide a preference as to whether the northbound or southbound lanes over the bridge be converted for two lanes of traffic.
    “I have to know by next Tuesday because that would give me about four days to work out a striping plan,” Price said. “It sounds like the input is, ‘Yes, maybe northbound.’”

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