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For the week of Mar. 15 through Mar. 21, 2000

St. Luke’s wants change in highway design

Three lanes instead of five


"We find ourselves up against the wall. Controller of the highway is the ITD. Please collaborate with us and the ITD so we can occupy the hospital as soon as possible."

Gary Fletcher, St. Luke’s executive vice president for operations.


By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer

After hearing testimony during a packed meeting in Hailey, the Blaine County Planing and Zoning Commission postponed a decision on whether to release St. Luke’s hospital from its commitment to fund construction of five lanes of highway past its site south of Ketchum.

St. Luke’s hospital wants to construct three lanes instead of five lanes of Highway 75 at an intersection that will serve the new hospital at McHanville.

The P&Z decided to revisit St. Luke’s request on April 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the old Blaine County Courthouse.

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In January 1999, the P&Z granted a permit to build the hospital with the condition that St. Luke’s pay for some of the costs of construction of a five-lane section of Highway 75 extending 1,000 feet north and south of a stoplight at the hospital’s southern entrance.

St. Luke’s section would have been part of a larger project that would have extended from Timber Way to Serenade Lane.

However, the ITD recently decided to delay the larger project beyond the hospital’s projected December 2000 opening date. So, St. Luke’s requested that it be held responsible for only a three-lane highway segment so as not to delay opening.

At Thursday’s hearing, St. Luke’s attorney JoAnne Butler said according to a Transportation Impact Study conducted by St. Luke’s traffic engineer James Pline, a three-lane highway can safely accommodate the hospital facilities including a proposed 40,000-square-foot office building.

Butler said the 106,000-square-foot hospital and proposed medical office building would have a minimal effect on traffic.

According to a P&Z staff report compiled by zoning administrator Deborah Vignes, the hospital will generate 1,780 vehicle trips per day; and, if approved, the office building will generate another 1,445 vehicle trips daily.

The annual average traffic count for the highway in the year 2000 is projected to be 12,746 vehicles per day.

"It is reasonable to assume that traffic on Highway 75 will increase as a result of medical office facilities being located in the unincorporated rural county, instead of in the cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey," the report states.

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The change would also require re-negotiation of a horse-trade among the ITD, Blaine County and St. Luke’s that created a new access road for the hospital.

According to a county planning staff report, the ITD had agreed to give the county ownership of a former railroad right of way in exchange for the county’s help in acquiring the rights of way necessary to construct a five-lane highway.

St. Luke’s was to be responsible for the costs of acquiring the rights of way and construction of an access road on the former railroad right of way. The road was to become a county road and serve both the hospital and adjacent McHanville properties.

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McHanville property owner Kim Nilsen told the P&Z that a three-lane highway could not accommodate the hospital, the medical office building and other development in the area.

"It sounds like they just want to put some gravy in their pockets" by trying to get out of their responsibility for five-lanes, Nilsen said. "If you let them off the hook you’re making a grave mistake."

Gary Fletcher, St. Luke’s executive vice president for operations, said that despite concerns about costs, St. Luke’s would not back away from any financial obligations.

Fletcher said St. Luke’s wants to provide a safe environment for people to come to the hospital.

"We find ourselves up against the wall," Fletcher said. "Controller of the highway is the ITD. Please collaborate with us and the ITD so we can occupy the hospital as soon as possible."

ITD engineer Devin Rigby said the timeline for construction of a five-lane highway through the stretch adjacent to the hospital is five to 10 years. Rigby said the timeline is dependent on completion of an environmental study for the entire Highway 75 corridor, which would establish the configuration of the highway.

According to the staff report, the P&Z may deny or approve St. Luke’s request with any of the following options:

  • Require St. Luke’s to construct a three-lane highway extending approximately 1,000 feet north and south of the hospital traffic signal; construct and install an acceleration lane southbound from the intersection to allow right turning traffic from the hospital to merge with Highway 75 traffic.

  • Hold St. Luke’s responsible for the cost difference between constructing a three- and five-lane section of highway.

  • If the P&Z chooses the latter option, St. Luke’s could be required to post a bond for the cost difference between constructing a three-lane and a five-lane segment of highway.

If the ITD commences construction and expansion of the highway to at least four lanes in the general area between Timber way and Serenade Lane within 10 years of the opening of the hospital, the bond would be paid to the ITD.

In the event the ITD did not begin construction within 10 years of the hospital opening, or if highway expansion does not include four lanes of traffic, St. Luke’s obligation to contribute to the highway expansion project would expire.

 

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