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For the week of Oct. 27, 1999 through Nov. 2, 1999

St. Luke’s proposes to temporarily sever bike path

Water and sewer line trenching planned

Express Staff Writer

As part of its efforts to expedite construction of the new St. Luke’s hospital complex south of Ketchum, hospital officials and its construction engineers have asked the Blaine County Recreation District to allow two trenches to be cut across the valley’s 21-mile bike path.

The trenches would allow water and sewer lines, which must also somehow pass underneath the Big Wood River, to avoid a wetlands area.

The first bike path trench would be cut immediately south of the steel bridge and the other about 200 yards farther south.

In an interview Monday, Mary Austin Crofts, the county’s recreation district director, said she almost always requires anyone wanting to install utilities across the bike path to bore underneath it. Trenching across the path is a problem, she said, because it interrupts the public, deteriorates the surface and shortens the life of the path.

"I don’t want to be unreasonable about it," she said, but "once you cut the asphalt, we wouldn’t be able to repave it to our standards," because it’s so late in the year. She added that over the winter, water and snow could get into any cracks and cause further damage to the path.

St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center administrator Jon Moses declined to comment on the bike path proposal, declaring he doesn’t follow the construction of the new hospital at that level of detail.

Bill Bodner of the Boise-based St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, said, "We’re going to need to make this decision within a matter of days."

"Presently, there is a potential six-figure difference between boring and trenching," said Bodner, the St. Luke’s president and spokesman.

John Gaeddert, planner for the new St. Luke’s complex south of Ketchum, said in a three page memo, dated Oct. 19, to Crofts that there are seven extraordinary circumstances that prevent the hospital from boring under the path:

 St. Luke’s has immediate needs to meet fire department flow requirements.

  St. Luke’s borings need to be larger and deeper than the bores usually reviewed by the rec district.

 The bore near the river would require extensive de-watering.

 Testing indicates a high possibility of bore failure, due to numerous rocks near the river.

 The hired contractor will not be able to complete the boring by winter.

 Contractors and equipment capable of performing the boring cost-effectively are not available before winter.

 The county engineer is concerned "that the horizontal bore requirement may preclude the possibility of other entities (maybe even communities) utilizing a far cheaper open-cut method in the future."

Crofts said for her part she is concerned that making an exception for St. Luke’s could set an unwanted precedent for future builders.

Obviously frustrated with constant construction affecting the path in one way or another, she said, "we never seem to get our path back."

To help ameliorate the negative impact trenching will have on bike path users, St. Luke’s has offered to conduct the work on two separate nights between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

"During these nights," Gaeddert said, "trail users will be re-routed via a lit dirt path around the excavation area. The length of the detour will be approximately 200-300 linear feet."

Gaeddert said that at 7 a.m. the open trench would be "reclaimed at grade with a gravel surface. . .or a scissor truss bridge set in place to assure non-motorized use of the trail once again."

Each cut would involve removing about 70 feet of the bike path, which, Gaeddert said, would be replaced with cold patch asphalt this November.

St. Luke’s said it would commit to performing "asphalt work in spring 2000 from the south end of Big Wood River historic bridge to tie-in south of open-trench cut"—and that it would guarantee continued maintenance of the 700-foot section for the next five years.

"They’ve been very good to work with," Crofts said of St. Luke’s.

But, she added, "what if we just closed the highway for one day?"

She pointed out that people use the bike path to commute, and that she gets weekly requests from builders to trench across the path.

"Most people bore," she said.

"This year, we had trouble with Idaho Power who drove their trucks all over it," she said.

"Nobody feels as protective of our path as we do," she said of the recreation district, "and that’s our job."

Crofts said she has met three times with St. Luke’s and that she has asked once again that they continue to pursue boring.

The final decision rests with her, Crofts said, though St. Luke’s could appeal her decision to the recreation board‘s directors.


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