Friday, September 6, 2013

ITD approves reduced highway speed

Lower nighttime limit planned to begin in October


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Highway construction south of Ketchum will be shut down in November, but work still continues until then. Workers are shown here installing piles to support a retaining wall near Owl Rock Road. Photo by Roland Lane

    Representatives of the Idaho Transportation Department announced Thursday that the agency has approved a nighttime speed reduction for a two-mile stretch of state Highway 75 immediately north of Hailey.
    Instead of 55 miles per hour as now posted for all times, the speed limit for that portion of the highway will be reduced to 45 mph at night.
    The announcement came at a Thursday morning meeting of the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee, which, along with its advisory group, the Wildlife Crossing Committee, recommended the reduced speed limit to ITD in order to reduce the number of vehicle-versus-wildlife accidents in that area.
    The two-mile stretch of highway, from McKercher Boulevard in northern Hailey north to Zinc Spur Road, has one of the highest frequency rates for vehicle-wildlife collisions in Blaine County.
    At the meeting, ITD Project Development Engineer Walter Burnside said flashing signs advising drivers of the speed limit change have been ordered but won’t arrive for installation until October, which is when ITD expects to implement the change.
    “It’s been approved; we’re just waiting for delivery,” said ITD District Engineer Devin Rigby.
    “Two weeks ahead, we’ll issue a press release,” Rigby said. “We’re talking about a real public information campaign.”

Highway construction
    Also at the meeting, Burnside told the committee that construction on Highway 75 south of Ketchum will “shut down” from November through February of 2014.
    “It’s been going along, but there have been delays,” Burnside said. “Right now we’re trying to get together a plan about closing it down for the winter. There will be a formal news release in a couple of weeks that will detail what we’ll do.”
    The construction project, contracted to Idaho Sand & Gravel Co., of Jerome, involves widening a 3.25 mile section of the highway from Timber Way just north of East Fork Road to the bridge over the Big Wood River near St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center. When finished, the highway will have two lanes in both directions and will have center turning lanes and side deceleration lanes at major intersections.
    A construction update was issued Wednesday by ITD District 4 Public Information Officer Nathan Jerke.
    According to the update, the contractor is still working on Stage II, which includes construction of the southbound lanes complete with drainage facilities, building a noise wall at the Dashner Trailer Park and building a retaining wall at the rock outcrop near Owl Rock Road.
    Jerke reported that the noise wall at Dashner has now been built and that stone façade work is now under way and should be completed by the end of September.
    The retaining wall near Owl Rock Road is now being constructed, with drilling and placement of piles to support the wall.
    Jerke reported that motorists can expect “long delays” next Monday through Thursday, with flagging between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., while a new pipeline is installed to channel Clear Creek under the roadway.
    Jerke reported that the removal plan for contaminated soils at the former Dean Tire location is nearly complete. Once ready, the contractor will remove contaminated soils, underground tanks and building materials. That work is expected to start next week.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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