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City to assess Center Street underpass

Pocatello is getting on the road to remodeling the Center Street underpass.

The City Council approved a measure on Thursday to bring in Boise engineering firm CH2M Hill, Inc. to assess the underpass and decide a best course of action for one of the most crucial connections between the east and west sides of the city.

The cracks in the current infrastructure aren’t keeping anyone from safely making the drive through it, but they have caught the eye of the city’s Engineering Department, said Project Manager Josh Baird.

“We get quite a few complaints: spalling concrete, oil and water in there, kind of dim lighting, those types of things,” Baird said.

The city started considering the underpass as a project when its bridge inventory rating continued to decline. CH2M Hill, Inc. will evaluate whether the underpass can be remodeled or whether the entire thing needs to be replaced.

“It will be a very huge project,” Baird said.

Initial cost estimates for a full replacement start at $1.4 million, Baird said. But, CH2M Hill will also figure out the most cost effective course of action, he said.

The city is paying for the evaluation through a grant. The federal government will pay $137,000 and the city will put at $10,000 match.

The goal is to make the underpass safer, but not just for drivers. Baird said that pedestrians and bikers will have to be a part of the assessment, too.

“(We’ll) see if we can change it a little bit, perhaps get better pedestrian and bicycle facilities in there with better illumination,better access for those people, as well, so we’ll have to see what happens,”he said.

Waiting to see what happens will be another big feature of the project. C2HM Hill will do the evaluation within the next year, and based on the report, the city will start construction at an unknown point in the future, Baird said.

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