The Idaho Transportation Department is moving forward with a plan to transfer ownership to the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley of the road that connects the two cities—a key preliminary step in a multi-million-dollar strategy to repair the high-profile street.
ITD is commencing the process of presenting and taking public comment on a proposal to delegate ownership of 3.6 miles of Sun Valley Road—from state Highway 75 to a point near Boundary Campground and the beginning of Trail Creek Road—to the cities. Under the proposal, the first one-third mile—from Main Street in Ketchum to the city limits—would be transferred from state ownership to Ketchum, and the next 3.3 miles would be transferred to Sun Valley.
Sun Valley Mayor Peter Hendricks said he initiated discussions about the plan with ITD roughly two years ago, amid concerns over the condition of the road, which feeds high volumes of traffic into Sun Valley, Sun Valley Resort and beyond through an area called the “Gateway.” Some residents complained about potholes and road maintenance, Hendricks said, but the city had to tell people the road through the “iconic entrance” is owned and maintained by the state, not the city.
“It wasn’t very welcoming,” Hendricks said.
As part of the plan, the city of Sun Valley would use state funding to rebuild the road and the bike path that runs through the “Gateway.” The city is currently anticipating receiving approximately $3.2 million, which it would use to rebuild the road, improve the path and complete other improvements identified as necessary. The city hopes to receive the funding in the 2021 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If the plan moves forward and the city receives the funding, it intends to conduct the road and path work in 2022, Hendricks said.
The city of Ketchum has also been negotiating the road transfer with ITD and is currently working with a funding figure of $838,600, said Lisa Enourato, the city’s public affairs and administrative services manager. The funds could be used to repair and rehabilitate the road, Enourato said.
As part of the plan, Blaine County would accept the transfer of ownership from ITD and would then assign ownership and management responsibility to the two cities. Under Idaho law, the state cannot directly assign ownership of land to cities.
The plan has not yet been officially approved by the state, said Jessica Williams, public information officer for ITD’s District 4, which includes Blaine County. ITD is currently in the public comment phase of the project, Williams said, a step in the process of making a final decision. After the public comment period, later steps include receiving a resolution from Blaine County “that declares their intention to accept jurisdiction of the highway,” having an ITD sub-committee review a draft agreement and make a recommendation to the Idaho Transportation Board, and, finally, a decision by the board. If the plan is approved, ITD will then work to establish and disburse funding, Williams said.
Funding attached to the plan has not been finally determined, Williams said, but ITD is currently anticipating approximately $4 million in total payments to the two cities—essentially the sum of the amounts the cities are currently expecting.
“In essence, funds are provided to the entity assuming jurisdiction so that they may rehabilitate the roadway to meet all county and city standards,” Williams wrote in an email to the Idaho Mountain Express. “Funding amounts for this transfer also include traffic signal updates and roadway maintenance.”
ITD will continue to maintain the road until a transfer of ownership is completed, Hendricks said.
After negotiations were delayed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, completion of the plan is in sight, Hendricks said.
“We can see the goal line right now,” he said.