Two towns, two bridges, hundreds of years of history
Weiser and Payette stand 15 miles apart in rural Southwest Idaho. Although they reside in different counties, Weiser (in Washington County) and Payette (in Payette County) have many things in common.
They are both small, tight-knit communities: Weiser is home to about 5,300 people; Payette has a population of about 8,100. Athletic teams in both communities compete in the Snake River Valley Conference. Both towns have a median income lower than the state average. Both towns have a rich history – Weiser got its name about 200 years ago based on a member of Lewis & Clark’s Expedition. Payette was incorporated in 1891. Payette was named after a French-Canadian fur trapper and later the head the Fort Boise trading post, but originally was called Boomerang.
Life moves at a slower pace in both communities. A traffic jam is when you can see more than five vehicles on the road at the same time. That’s not a critique – it’s just the experience and expectation they have.
They are about to share anther commonality.
In spring 2008, a project began to replace the bridge over the Snake River in Weiser. For more than 100 years, a bridge has connected Weiser and Annex, Oregon. The project has not been without drama – the summer after it began, a boater was killed trying to cross under the bridge when his boat hit a cable under the bridge.
Final paving and re-seeding remain, but in the next few weeks, that $10 million project will be wrapping up. As completion nears, another bridge project will begin in neighboring Payette.
In mid-June work on the U.S. 95 bridge over the Payette River south of Payette is expected to start. The existing northbound truss bridge (built in 1927) located on U.S. 95 between Fruitland and Payette will be demolished and replaced with a new structure. Fruitland also shares many characteristics with Payette and Weiser, with a population of about 4,700, rural lifestyle and membership in the Snake River Valley league.
The new bridge will be two-feet higher above the Snake River, will allow unlimited vertical clearance and be 84 feet wide, eliminating existing safety concerns over width and height restrictions. The new bridge will be built next to, and connect with the existing southbound bridge. Construction is expected to take about two years to complete.
Some resurfacing work near Payette must be completed by mid-June in order for construction on the Payette River Bridge to begin on time.