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Copyright © 2003 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. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Consultants present Highway 75 preview

Best and worst of ‘new valley road’ unveiled

Express Staff Writer

For those who are still driving up and down state Highway 75 between Ketchum and south of Bellevue in, say, 2025, they will have the best and worst of a new 27-mile stretch costing an estimated $110 million.

It will be wider—four lanes and 110 feet in most places.

But, alas, not necessarily faster for drivers.

And in spots, it will be ugly: Vegetation will have been removed and in one or two places walls eight to 10 feet high will have been erected as noise barriers.

Those are some of the pluses and minuses unveiled Monday for the Ketchum City Council and the Blaine County Commission by Diana Atkins, of the Utah-based consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas, awarded a $4.4 million contract to study the proposed road project for the Idaho Transportation Department.

If funded by the federal government, Highway 75 rebuilding and renovation will be about a 14-year construction project, stretching from Ketchum to the intersection with U.S. 20 below Bellevue.

No funds have yet been appropriated.

Atkins said construction, if approved, would be broken down into seven phases, with the first in the Fox acres area between Friedman Memorial Airport and Bellevue to begin in the 2007-2008 period.

The project offers three alternatives, she explained: the first, leave the highway as-is; the second, two lanes in both directions, and the third, one lane in each direction designated for car-pooled High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) use during peak workday traffic hours in the morning and afternoon.

Using projections involving the year 2025, Atkins predicted that if the HOV lane is designated between Elkhorn Road south of Ketchum and McKercher Park in Hailey, 21 percent of the vehicles on the highway would be carrying 33 percent of the people, while the other 79 percent of vehicles would use the remaining general-purpose lane during peak hours.

Traffic using the general-purpose lane, she said, would be as slow or slower during peak hours as today. In answer to a question from Commissioner Mary Ann Mix, Atkins agreed that general-purpose lane traffic would be in gridlock during peak hours.

She also said that "very aggressive" bus service would be in use in 2025—service every 15 minutes during peak hours instead of today’s once-hourly service.

Yet, despite drawbacks, she said "accessibility to Valley amenities (would be) enhanced" because of "reasonable travel timers" between points of interest.

Removal of vegetation and berms along the rights-of-way, Atkins explained, is a way of eliminating grazing areas for elk and deer that then wander out into traffic.

As for the high walls that could extend 650 feet along the highway in several places, she said they would not be permitted under the county’s ordinances. However, she said the conflict probably could be resolved.

Thus far, the study has grown to 40 pages, including 99 sheets of 11-by-17-inch charts and overlays.

Much of the study data has been posted on the Internet at www.sh-75.com.


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