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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8065 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


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For the week of July 10 - 16, 2002


A must-see hearing on super-size five-lane

There’s a must-see event in Ketchum next Tuesday. It’s an event that could change life in the Wood River Valley forever.

It’s the second rubber-hits-the road hearing on the future design of State Highway 75. The presentation and solicitation of public comments will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kentwood Lodge, 180 S. Main St., in Ketchum.

The first session last month left a lot of very serious questions unanswered in what may be the single greatest development issue in Blaine County since 1936 when the Sun Valley Lodge was finished and skiing began.

The first great flaw in what’s been presented to date is that Idaho Transportation Department consultants still cannot tell the public which options—five-lane with wide shoulders, five-lane plus right-hand turn lanes and shoulders—will fit within the existing public right of way.

The second great flaw is that no options are offered for comparison to the super-sized five-lane that is fast becoming the only design option.

The third great flaw is that while the ITD consultants have spent considerable time and energy collecting population data and drafting pretty highway cross-sections, they have spent no time delineating the impacts.

The consultants say these things will come later.

On the contrary, they should have accompanied the design options put in front of the public for comment. They are essential for understanding any new highway design.

Designing a highway through the Wood River Valley ought to be like designing a building for a priceless and beautiful piece of property. The building design can enhance the beauty around it, or destroy it.

Good architects look at a piece of property before they begin a design to figure out how to make a new building work with the property and its existing neighbors. They figure out how to make it work for the people who will use it.

They never design a big house for a space where only a small one will fit. They never design a picture window with a view of a brick wall.

They never ask owners to choose a design blindfolded. They figure out tradeoffs required by various designs—before ordering up engineering. And, they explain the tradeoffs to the owners.

ITD’s design consultants need to take a page out of the architects’ procedure manual.

As it stands, ITD’s highway consultants are asking members of the public what kind of doorknobs they want before they even see where the house will sit on the property and before they know what impacts the house will produce.

Designs and desires often change when faced with negative tradeoffs.

For example, if asked, most people will say they would love to live in a large house. If asked, most people will they say they would like to be able to drive to Ketchum and Hailey faster.

Who wouldn’t?

However, desires may change if people learn that their large dream house is possible only if the neighbors give up their own backyard and agree to tear down a shed. Desires may change if the big house means destroying a lovely stream and a stand of old trees. Desires may change if people learn that a small house may be more convenient than a large one.

Consultants concede that a super-size five-lane design will require widening the existing right of way in several places.

Yet, there is nothing available that shows in any detail where a new highway would fall inside or outside the existing right of way. There is nothing that shows whose backyard, berm, fence or home will be affected.

Consequently, there’s no way to envision what the impacts of a super-sized five-lane may be. There’s no way to determine the relative advantages or disadvantages of a smaller thoroughfare.

Valley residents and interested visitors should attend Tuesday’s meeting. They should refuse to be detoured into discussions of doorknob styles until they get some answers about the bigger picture.

Only vigorous public scrutiny will get the valley what it needs: a safe, efficient highway that will enhance life in this beautiful valley, not destroy it.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.