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Dangerous rail crossing near Rigby may close

Idaho Falls

A dangerous and often deadly intersection of Highway 20 is about to be shut down, but the closure could have a big financial impact on nearby businesses. Senior reporter Suzanne Hobbs has more.

Everyone involved says there's no question that the interchange is dangerous. The problem is how to improve safety without hurting the nearby businesses that depend on the highway access.

By April, if not sooner, the Holbrook Interchange south of Rigby will be closed off, meaning there will be no access to U.S. 20 from the county roads. It's part of the Transportation Department's plan to have all at-grade crossings between Idaho Falls and Rexburg eliminated by 2007.

"Those at-grade crossings are dangerous, so that is the goal. In this case, we're not going to build an interchange at this time. In the future, maybe someday, yeah, but not right now," said Cathy Koon, Idaho Transportation Department.

The idea is not sitting well with dozens of business owners, including Dave Murdoch. His car lot is next to Highway 20.

"There's a lot of traffic that comes by on U.S. highway on a daily basis - people from Rexburg working in Idaho Falls, traveling back and forth. There's a lot of traffic. So we thought this would be a good spot for exposure."

He says when the interchange is shut down, it will be tough to earn a living. Murdoch and 22 other business owners are not disputing that it is a dangerous and even deadly intersection, but David Youngstrom, with Yellowstone Log Homes, says the decision is not fair for those trying to make a living.

"I think it needs done, because it's really a hazardous interchange, but it's going to affect our business and affect our access."

Anyone wanting to access his soon-to-open lumber store will have to drive through town, as will thousands of trucks making deliveries in and out of his lot.

"And that will force a lot of those right through the city of Rigby."

These business owners are asking city and county leaders to speed up a population study that shows where the growth is expected to happen in the Rigby area in years to come. The Transportation Department says if the city and counties transportation study shows growth is expected on the southern part of Rigby, the Transportation Department will reconsider a full interchange for safety of drivers. For now, the road is scheduled to close in a matter of months.

The issue of speeding up the transportation study will be addressed at tonight's city council meeting by an attorney representing the group of business owners.