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I-15, US-20 Interim Project underway

I15 US20 at Exit 119
Dave Barrington
The Interstate 15 and U.S. 20 interchange at Exit 119 is undergoing an interim makeover for safety. A bigger project is down the road.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KXPI/KIFI) - It's no secret Eastern Idaho is getting bigger, but with that, comes more traffic. More cars means more safety concerns. One of those is a long-standing headache at a very busy intersection.

As part of our "Growing East Idaho" franchise, Eyewitness News 3 and Local News 8 anchor Todd Kunz went to the source to see what's being done to keep drivers safe and traffic flowing.

"This is a concern that we're hopefully going to make it safer for people that are finding themselves at peak hour times, that are stacking up on I-15," said Kelly Hoopes, Deputy Project Manager for the I-15/U.S. 20 Project.

A lot of traffic comes off Interstate-15 where it connects into U.S. 20. With a rising population, it is only going to get worse. A community group has come together to focus on this exchange. Idaho State Police has been concerned about the safety of this area for a long time.

"The ISP suggested, is there anything we can do in the interim, in the interim to make it so that we could increase safety and address the concern in the interim between them (Broadway Exit and U.S. 20 Exit)? That's what the impetus for this project was," said Hoopes.

Hoopes uses the term 'interim' several times. There is a bigger project for I-15 and U.S. 20 years down the road. More on that later. But the work being done right now is a temporary fix to address the traffic congestion and flow, and the safety of this area of Idaho Falls, between the Broadway Exit and the Grandview Drive Exit to U.S. 20.

"The goal is, is to add an additional right turn lane for the traffic to leave I-15 and turn and go up to U.S. 20. All of them have to stop at this. We're gonna make a dual right turn lane. So whereas it was a single right turn before, we're making it dual," said Hoopes.

Another way to increase safety is to take the pedestrian on Grandview Drive out of the mix.

"One of the advantages of this is that pedestrians are going to be able to walk through the grade separated tunnel. Taking the pedestrians out of the traffic signal cycle is going to increase the efficiency of this ramp as well," said Hoopes.

As it is right now, pedestrians are crossing off-ramp traffic at the stoplight. And at the same time, traffic backs up on Grandview Drive.

"And the reason why is because we've had to reduce the green time (at the stoplight) for them (cars) to as little as we can, to drain the cycle or get the cars off of the ramp. It's safer for them to stack up on Grandview than it is to stack up on I-15," said Hoopes, pointing to both locations.

The overall project has been in the works for many, years, but the temporary safety fix needed to be addressed now.

"Now this will make it better," said Hoopes.

"Yes, overall," said Kunz.

"But it is not permanent solution," said Hoopes.

"Your challenge is staying in front of all the growth. Isn't it?" asked Kunz.

"And trying to plan for it responsibly for generations to come," said Hoopes.

The Idaho Transportation Department broke ground on this interim project earlier in the spring 2021. Workers recently finished the west side of the ramp and half of the pedestrian tunnel and have moved to the east side of the ramp to finish the other half of the pedestrian tunnel. Hoopes said they expect to be done with the interim project by July 4 weekend.

As for the bigger I-15/U.S. 20 Project down the road, it needs to go through the environmental process, the design process, and then the construction process... study, design, build. Right now, ITD is in the environmental study phase. There will be many public input meetings. So it could be two to five years down the road, or five to 10 years down the road.

To see the maps and diagrams for the I-15/U.S. 20 Project, click here.

Article Topic Follows: Growing East Idaho

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Todd Kunz

Todd is an anchor for Local News 8.


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