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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Jan 29 - Feb 4, 2003


ITD advances plans for 5-lane highway

Project could cost $62 million or more

Express Staff Writer

Officials from the Idaho Transportation Department last week said they dropped two design alternatives from a list of options for expanding Highway 75 because they would be too expensive and would have excessive environmental impacts.

ITD officials presented the findings at an open-house meeting Thursday evening at Wood River Middle School in Hailey. The meeting was designed to provide explanations for why ITD and its consultants have narrowed to two the field of potential highway-expansion designs, and what the impacts would be if one of those two remaining plans was approved and constructed.

ITD late last year discontinued research on proposed three-lane and seven-lane options, and decided to focus its attention on two comparable designs that propose four and five lanes through most areas.

Material presented last week stated that the so-called "Enhanced 3-lane" design—which proposed two lanes with a center turn lane through much of the Wood River Valley—was dropped because:

  • It would have required high costs to acquire lands to widen the highway right of way and gain land for frontage roads.

  • It would have resulted in a total pavement "footprint" larger than any other alternative because it required frontage roads for access.

  • It would have had a significant detrimental impact on the community because of its cost, limited access and overall size.

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.

ITD said that option was dropped because:

  • It would have had greater impacts to adjacent properties and historic properties in the valley because of overall width and size.

  • It would have created excessive costs to acquire right of way.

  • It would have generated significant community impacts while providing only a marginal improvement in traffic flow compared to the favored five-lane options.

Diana Atkins, an ITD consultant from Utah-based Parsons-Brinckerhoff, said project managers have estimated that the two remaining options to expand the highway—which are being advanced with a so-called "No-build option" for study in a draft environmental-impact statement—will be studied by members of various state and federal agencies in future weeks to assess their impacts.

The two expansion alternatives still under consideration essentially propose the same configuration of four travel lanes plus a center-turn lane through most of the 27-mile stretch, from Timmerman Junction at U.S. 20 north through Ketchum to Saddle Road. But one of the two plans would include one designated high-occupancy vehicle lane in each direction from McKercher Boulevard in Hailey to Elkhorn Road.

Both alternatives propose three options that could be built for the route from Elkhorn Road to Trail Creek Bridge in Ketchum, including two-, three-, and four-lane designs.

Atkins on Thursday said construction of either of the five-lane designs through the entire corridor has been projected to cost from $40 million to $44 million to construct, plus an estimated $17 million to $18 million to acquire lands for right of way.

"But that (right of way) number is likely to go up," she said.

She noted the right-of-way projections were based on assumptions that ITD would need to acquire between 108 and 178 acres of land at a cost of $250,000 per acre north of Hailey. Land south of Bellevue has been projected to cost $50,000 per acre.

Atkins said ITD plans to release the draft EIS before the end of the year, and at that time will open an approximately 60-day public comment period on the document.

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