By Pat Murphy
Improving 25 miles of state Highway 75 from Ketchum south
to the Timmerman Junction at U.S. 20 will proceed at two speedsslow
This seemed to be the message Thursday, Jan. 29, when two
Idaho Transportation Department officials briefed the Wood
River Regional Transportation Committee.
The $107 million project is complicated by a series of some
eight separate segments, each requiring environmental study,
separate engineering and design, rights-of-way land acquisition
in some cases and incremental fundingall before construction
ITD District Engineer Devin Rigby and Charles Carnohan, a
senior environmental planner, outlined the projects
current status as well as funding realities.
How long the project is from completion will depend on how
fast required pre-construction stages are completed and approved
and funds are made available.
Carnohan said that by April, the first phase of an environmental
impact statement on the Highway 75 project will be completed.
Then, after a series of public hearings, the final EIS statement
required by the National Environmental Policy Act should be
completed and approved by November or December.
But construction still is years away, Carnohan said.
Funding requests must be renewed each year for project segments
whose individual costs range between $3.5 million to $18.5
million each, he said.
Carnohan estimates that under the pace of current congressional
funding, $22 million of work would be approved by 2005 and
the remaining $85 million in work would be approved between
2006 and 2009 provided no hitches develop.
"It gives me the creeps to think (Highway 75 improvements)
would be under construction for 20 years," Carnohan said.
However, a possible funding complication may have developed
since last weeks briefing.
President Bush was reported by The New York Times on Sunday
to have decided to oppose a Republican and Democratic plan
in Congress to spend $375 billion over the next six years
on highway work, which would exceed available gasoline tax
funds by $100 billion.
Instead, the president reportedly would trim spending back
to $251 billion. White House sources say the president would
veto the congressional level of funding. Whether this reduction
would affect the Highway 75 project wont be known until
appropriations bills are approved.
Idahos Republican congressional delegation, which ultimately
would lobby for the states share of highway dollars,
is being kept abreast of project progress. Linda Norris, an
aide to Sen. Mike Crapo, joined in the briefing by conference
telephone from her Twin Falls office.
Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael also told the committee
that "people don't want to just see a highway" widened
and improved. "They want options such as buses."
She mentioned the possibility that rather than continue a
lease arrangement for buses for the Peak Bus commuter service,
Blaine County might arrange for the purchase of a bus for
the service and ask the city of Ketchums KART office
to manage and operate the system.
Last weeks meeting also ran into a procedural snag:
only three of the regional transportation committees
10 voting members showed upKetchum City Councilman Randy
Hall, who is the committees chair; Sun Valley Mayor
Jon Thorsen and Blaine County Commission Chairman Dennis Wright.
Without a quorum, the committee was unable to act on several
items of business.