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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Dec 31, 2002 - Jan 7, 2003


ITD focusing on 4-lane design for Hwy. 75

Discussion of options scheduled Jan. 23

Express Staff Writer

Idaho Transportation Department officials have shortened their list of design alternatives for expanding Highway 75 through the Wood River Valley, and have decided to focus on two designs that propose four and five lanes through most areas, an ITD consultant said this week.

Diana Atkins, an ITD consultant from Utah-based Parsons Brinckerhoff, said Monday that project managers have decided to discontinue research on the remaining five highway expansion alternatives that have been under consideration.

A three-lane design and a considerably more ambitious plan that proposed up to seven lanes to meet a state traffic-flow standard have both been essentially removed from further consideration, Atkins said.

The so-called "Enhanced 3-lane" option proposed two lanes with a center turn lane through much of the Wood River Valley, with some sections that would have up to five lanes. The plan also called for improvements to the existing public transit system.

The so-called "Level of Service C" alternative that was also eliminated had proposed a significantly wider design put forth for the project to meet the state’s minimum standard for traffic flow through the region. The design called for three lanes in each direction plus a center-turn lane from Buttercup Road north of Hailey to Serenade Lane just south of Ketchum.

"The impacts of those two alternatives are high," Atkins said, noting that a significant amount of land would have had to have been purchased by the public to either ensure access to the highway or to provide a wide enough right of way to accommodate the expanded roadway.

The decision to essentially eliminate design alternatives was made after a Dec. 10 workshop by public officials and other interested parties to discuss the pros and cons of various designs, Atkins noted.

She said she and ITD officials will present an explanation of why the alternatives were eliminated at a public open-house meeting scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 23, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Wood River Inn in Hailey.

ITD officials at the meeting will present revised mapped drawings for the two remaining Highway 75 expansion alternatives, both of which propose a combination of four- and five-lane designs for different points in the valley.

In addition, the state—as it is mandated to do by the Federal Highway Administration—is still considering a so-called "No Build" alternative that proposes no new projects to expand Highway 75.

With the "No Build" alternative, the two remaining alternatives to expand the highway will be the focus of a study in 2003 to determine the various impacts the different projects would have on the valley and its residents, commuters and communities.

The results of that study will ultimately be included in a formal Environmental Impact Statement that ITD officials expect to release by next fall.

The FHWA will eventually make the final determination as to which alternative is advanced for final consideration for funding and construction.

The two remaining expansion designs are almost identical, differing only in how they make provisions for commuters who carpool.

Both alternatives call for either three or four traffic lanes from Timmerman Junction to Gannett Road south of Bellevue, and call for four traffic lanes and intermittent center turn lanes from Gannett Road to Fox Acres Road in Hailey.

Both alternatives call for four continuous traffic lanes and a center turn lane from McKercher Boulevard in northern Hailey to Elkhorn Road south of Ketchum. However, one design would designate one lane in each direction as a high-occupancy-vehicle lane that could only be used by cars with multiple passengers during peak traffic hours.

Both designs also propose three options for the stretch of road from Elkhorn Road to the Trail Creek Bridge in Ketchum, including two-, three- and four-lane alternatives.

All sections with four traffic lanes would provide two lanes for northbound travel and two lanes for southbound travel.

Both options propose enhancements for pedestrians in cities, increased opportunities for carpooling, and an increase in public bus service.

Atkins said Monday that ITD is working to refine the two remaining expansion designs, and in doing so will attempt to incorporate ideas provided by the public over the last year at various meetings.

"We will address as many of those ideas as possible," she said.


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