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City Unveils Final Design, People Voice Opinions On Connector

The South Valley Connector could finally break ground this year after 16 years in the making.

On Tuesday, the city of Pocatello held a public meeting to show off the final design elements and get local people’s opinions on how the connector looks.

People came to speak out about the environmental impact, the connector’s placement and how much money the project costs. But the project is already beyond those stages.

Brad Christensen said he caught bald eagles on camera this week from his backyard at his house on Bannock Highway. His biggest concern about the connector is hurting the animals who call the area home.

“And I have a 9-year-old daughter and for me, it’s such a joy to let her have the same amenities and see the same things that I grew up with as a child,” Christensen said.

City Engineer Deirdre Castillo was there to explain the new changes to the connector, and said engineers will do an environmental reevaluation to see if there have been any major changes in the wildlife.

“They would look to see if it’s on the endangered species list, if it’s not, it’s already been addressed,” Castillo said.

Federal projects like these take a very long time, and after 16 years, the connector has been fast-tracked, so there’s really no looking back, she said.

“There were pros and cons to every one of the routes. But what we have is what’s going to be built, and we’re not going to deviate from that. We’re way too far along in the ball game for that,” Castillo said.

Not everyone at the meeting was negative. Some were just happy the project is getting done. Kirk Hendricks said he’s followed the project from the beginning and has never seen this many people at a meeting.

“I think doing it right is getting it done. We’ve got access to the greenway out there. We’re taking away the dangerous railroad crossing that we have out there,” Hendricks said. “I just see a lot of pluses in this project.”

The connector will be two lanes, rather than four, all the way from Bannock Highway to South Fifth Avenue. There will be a 10-foot bike and walk lane instead of sidewalks. And the train bridge will be two, not three, lanes.

The opening for the greenway will be smaller than originally intended, but Portneuf Greenway Foundation President Tamara Code said she is just glad the connector is getting done.

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