Flags that lined the bridge stood at attention.Veterans, representing multiple conflicts and military branches, stood behind the platform. And community leaders, dressed in their warmest winter parkas listened attentively.
With a steady wind at his back, and a bright future for Idaho Falls in front of him, Idaho Transportation Board vice president Jack Combo reminded a supportive crowd of the benefits a new southern access to the city will provide. Benefits to the economy. To commuters. To shoppers. To those who need medical care. And to visitors entering Idaho Falls from the south.
The $38 million Sunnyside Interchange project was declared open and ready to serve during a ribbon cutting ceremony on a new five-lane bridge over the Snake River. Combo, representing the board, said completion of the project was a longstanding dream for the city.
He also publicly thanked the Idaho State Police Capt. Danny Bunderson to ensuring the safety of both highway construction workers and the traveling public during the project that spanned three construction seasons. Statistics indicate travelers, not construction workers, are the most likely to be injured during a work zone crash. No one was injured during construction of the Sunnyside project, Combo emphasized.
Idaho Lt. Gov. Mark Ricks and Idaho Falls Mayor Jared Fuhriman joined Combo in discussing the virtues of the completed project and the role it will play in the region’s economic development. Its influence already is evident.
A private developer has started reshaping land near the western end of the new bridge and connected a new road, sidewalks and curbs to the short segment of new highway linking the interchange and bridge to Yellowstone Avenue.
About 30 minutes after the ceremonial ribbon cutting, the route was open to traffic and one of the first users was a semi truck and trailer traveling from Idaho Falls to Interstate 15. It was the first of a wave of traffic that continued to build on the new route the rest of the day.
The dedication is one of three events scheduled this fall that collectively represent a significant commitment to Idaho's interstate system. Two other celebrations are planned for interchanges in Nampa and Caldwell.
"These celebrations acknowledge the economic benefits our interstate investments bring to Idaho communities," said ITD Interim Director Dwight Bower.
"They also represent our ongoing commitment to improve the state's transportation system and safety for travelers. Escalating construction costs and rising inflation continue to challenge us as we try to address growing demands on our system."
Photos: Community leaders and nearby residents manned ceremonial scissors to cut the Sunnyside Interchange ribbon Thursday near Idaho Falls (top); Idaho Transportation Board vice chairman Jack Combo shared his observations in a television interview (middle); an array of flags added to the Veterans Day theme of the dedication ceremony (bottom).