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For the week of Oct. 13, 1999 through Oct. 19, 1999

Twenty Years Ago

From October, 1979 issues:

* Will the trains keep running to Ketchum?

That was the question to be posed by area residents to the Idaho Department of Transportation during a public hearing on the Idaho Rail Plan to be held Nov. 19, 1979 at Blaine County Courthouse, Hailey.

In essence, the continuation of service will depend on whether new mining activity in the area will provide enough freight to make the service profitable, according to IDT freight planner Ron Kerr.

Currently, rail traffic to Ketchum is very light, between 40 to 100 carloads of freight per year. No passenger service is available. To be viable, the IDT said, the line would have to carry an average of 35 carloads per mile per year to be profitable.

Passenger service on the Ketchum Branch was abandoned in the early 1950s, Kerr said. Currently the rail lines are not in proper condition to carry passenger loads. Passenger lines must meet much higher maintenance standards than freight lines.

Local residents have often suggested that some type of commuter train to Ketchum be instituted.

Kerr noted that commuter trains are very expensive to operate and maintain, working best in high-density areas. He further predicted that any passenger service would have to be undertaken privately if the line was abandoned.


* Is it inevitable, a four-lane highway in the valley?

During a discussion of the 7,500-acre Deer Creek Ranch proposal, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission launched spontaneously into a discussion of a four-lane highway through the Wood River Valley.

Commission chairman Nick Purdy asked whether the county planning office knew how much traffic new subdivisions would generate in the valley over the next several years.

County planning administrator Gary Slette said the Idaho Department of Highways had traffic counts and estimates of new traffic derived from expected subdivision population figures. Slette explained that reintroduction of a four-lane highway proposal was a political problem because of the magnitude of the public outcry when the subject was first proposed in 1974.

Because of the controversy, neither the county commissioners nor the Department of Highways would broach a new plan unless they received some kind of mandate from the people.

Purdy, who said something would have to be done about the increased traffic, added, "It will take someone to go to the state to say we were wrong and you were right."

In its 1974 assessment, the Idaho Department of Highways said the current highway’s "insufficient roadway width" and "sharp horizontal curvature exceeding acceptable design standards" called for upgrading. The four-lane highway was proposed, rather than a wider two-lane, because of federal highway funding requirements.


* Scott USA, the second-largest employer in the Wood River Valley, announced plans to move its administration headquarters from Ketchum to Clearfield, Utah. The company manufactures ski and motorcycle accessories.

The move, which may mean the loss of up to $1 million a year in payroll locally, involves all administration and research departments with the exception of marketing. The move is expected to be accomplished by early 1980.

In 1976, Scott USA had moved its ski goggle production to Tijuana, Mexico, and ski boot manufacture had moved to Clearfield in 1978.

Scott USA’s customer relations officer Lyn Sabala said it was expensive to maintain a group of 60 employees in Ketchum—while there were 300 employees in Clearfield and about 70 workers in Tijuana.

The anticipated departure of Scott USA leaves one ski pole manufacturer, Sun Valley Sport Products, still operating in Ketchum. That company was formed in March 1979 by three former Scott employees—Lew Krieger, Gus Verge and Roger Roche. Their alpine ski pole, similar in design to the Scott pole, was called Reflex pole.


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