The Idaho Transportation Department announced this week that it has begun preliminary work for the second phase of construction for a state Highway 75 widening project.
The second phase, identified as the “Big Wood River Bridge to Elkhorn Road” reconstruction project, involves replacement of the highway bridge near St. Luke’s Wood River hospital and expansion of the roadway to accommodate two lanes of traffic in each direction. Construction is planned to begin in 2016.
According to a project fact sheet distributed by ITD, the agency plans extensive public involvement, including frequent stakeholder meetings and public information meetings.
“There’s a lot of stakeholder meetings underway.”
“There’s a lot of stakeholder meetings underway,” ITD Project Development Engineer Walter Burnside said at a Thursday morning meeting of the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee.
A schedule that Burnside handed out at the meeting shows that beginning next week and running into April, numerous meetings will be held with local officials, agencies, businesses and property owners who may be affected or have a “stake” in the construction project.
Meetings are set up with the Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission, the Blaine County Recreation District, Idaho State Police, Blaine County Road
and Bridge and the Sun Valley Water and Sewer District. Other meetings have been scheduled with Mountain Rides Transportation Authority, St. Luke’s Wood River, the Ketchum Fire Department, the Ketchum and Sun Valley city councils, the Blaine County commissioners and the homeowners associations at Lane Ranch, River’s Edge and River Ranch.
Burnside said ITD is trying to involve as many stakeholders as possible in the project.
In addition to stakeholder communications, initial work, now underway, includes survey and mapping, traffic analysis, utility coordination, geotechnical investigations and preliminary bridge and road design.
Environmental evaluations, considering wetlands, wildlife and vegetation, will start this spring and continue into summer 2015.
Final design is planned to be completed by fall 2015. The project is scheduled to be let for bids in late 2015 and a contractor selected in early 2016. Construction is planned to begin in the spring of 2016 and may run into the following year.
Burnside estimated development costs for the project at about $700,000, and projected actual construction costs at between $3.5 million and $4.5 million.
The project will tie in to the first construction phase, which was started last summer and will continue this year. That phase involves widening a 3.75-mile section of the highway from Timber Way just north of East Fork Road to the Big Wood River bridge near St. Luke’s.
“Right now we’re still in winter shutdown,” Burnside said. “It’s looking like late April or early May to start. We want to get in and finish it.”
In an interview Thursday, ITD spokesman Nathan Jerke said the agency has not yet made a decision regarding the “ditches” being used for water retention along much of the 3.75-mile phase one construction zone.
ITD officials said earlier that an initial plan to leave the ditches as they are is being reconsidered, but that extensive reconstruction of the ditches would erode funds for the phase two bridge replacement, a prospect that local officials earlier did not find desirous.
With this week’s heavy rains, some of the ditch sections in the north part of the construction zone are holding several feet of water and are close to capacity.
The phase one and phase two construction projects are part of an overall plan that has been in the works for close to 15 years to widen the highway from Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue to Saddle Road in north Ketchum.
ITD has secured $27 million in federal funding for the work. That money is expected to pay for both phase one and phase two construction and for federally required wetlands mitigation. Funding is uncertain for the remainder of the expansion project.