Travelers on state Highway 75 will have to put up with road construction traffic gridlocks for a few more weeks south of Ketchum in the vicinity of St. Luke’s Wood River hospital.
“It’s going to be another two or three weeks,” Justin Price, resident engineer for the Idaho Transportation Department, said in a meeting Thursday of the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee. Price was referring to construction in the area of the highway intersection with Hospital Drive north to the bridge over the Big Wood River. That area that has been particularly prone to traffic delays because of the narrowness of the road area and converging traffic from Hospital Drive, Broadway Run and Elkhorn Road.
ITD spokesman Nathan Jerke wrote in a construction update released Wednesday that timing adjustments to the traffic lights at Hospital Drive and Elkhorn Road may help the situation, but acknowledged that “extended traffic delays have continued during both morning and evening commute hours.”
The road work near the hospital is being performed by ITD contractor Idaho Sand & Gravel Co. as part of a project to widen 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. Once finished, the highway will have two lanes in both directions.
A new roadway has been completed for the southbound lanes and work is now under way, starting near the hospital, on the northbound lanes.
Price told the transportation committee that the contract requires that one lane of traffic be kept open at all times during construction. During morning and afternoon commute times, from 7-9 a.m. and from 4-6 p.m., the contract requires that two lanes of traffic be kept open. However, Price noted that delays can still be encountered during those times because of the necessity of pulling equipment on and off the highway in the construction zone.
Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary, who chairs the transportation committee, asked Price if the requirement to have two lanes open could be extended in the afternoon to 7 p.m. or at least to 6:30 p.m. Price told her no.
“The problem is, that’s what our contract says,” Price said.
ITD Regional Engineer Devin Rigby said extending the hours will be considered for future highway work, as will suggestions from committee members that construction be allowed on weekends or during nighttime hours, which is now prohibited by contract.
Devin reminded to the committee that the prohibition for weekend work came at the request of the transportation committee when construction issues were being discussed for a highway resurfacing project several years ago.
“If I remember the conversation right, Saturday was kind of event-type days and we were encouraged to stay away from those,” Rigby said.
“That was a long time ago,” McCleary said. “That would be worth looking at again.”
Terry Smith: email@example.com