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ITD welcomes public feedback on future of US 20

alternating passing lanes design
KIFI/Braydon Wilson

ASHTON, Idaho (KIFI) - The Ashton Community Center and Library provided the backdrop for the most recent meeting on the future of US 20 as it continues to affect travel through the cities of Ashton and Island Park.

People were invited to learn about some of the new solutions that the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), is considering they they hope will resolve many of the concerns that the two communities have about increasing traffic.

Karen Hiatt the engineering manager for ITD says the overall challenge is bringing US-20 to the future.

"We have presented on some boards some information about an alternating passing lane, you know, and we have some struggles and challenges with those that type of an alignment. But part of a PELZ was a planning, an environmental linkage that we're doing. And part of this process is to if, you know, new things come up or we need to take a closer look. This is the time to do it is when we're before we're into a more formal NEPA process."

Some of the feedback that ITD has been given is that instead of extending the current two lane highway into a four way highway, to improve on the current alternating passing lane or as it is other wise called a Super 2.

A member of the Ashton Chamber of Commerce Rachel Hatton, says not only could it be beneficial to the communities but it could help in other ways.

"I think that if you did the super to design and go there, you're not splitting Island Park completely in half. You're not going into people's property."

She said part of the issue is the speed people drive as they pass through.

"I think we can work together and have a super 2 design slowdown and yet and still have our county and our businesses that we can all be happy for years to come."

A representative of ITD and the project manager Micah Brown says, "We had the Super 2, 2 plus 1, or alternating passing lanes early on in the process and they were screened out based on public comment and input. We have circled back to the alternative development process and reintroduced the alternative passing lanes. We do have a slide on it. It's also on the website. So it is being reevaluated."

Brown adds after the project had to take a recent pause the design is still very much a part of the project and we are still in the planning stage as things continue to progress.

Paul Jackson was also at the meeting. He says he was happy with what he saw but may still have some questions he hopes gets answered.

"I'm glad to see they're moving ahead on. And I just wish they'd done it five years ago. It's taken a long time and it's badly needed. We'll be really happy when we have this four lane divided highway. So many major safety improvements and you'll eliminate a lot of the traffic snarls."

Jackson adds his main concern is the overall safety of the corridor and hopes that these designs help improve that.

"I like some of the, alternatives seem to like a much better way and it will be really a better improvement and increase the safety factor, which has to be one of the major concerns. And it just, again, would be nice if the project was ever going to start in the spring. Not to be good, but I know we're still a couple of years away."

At the meeting, people also had a chance to air some other solutions they hope to see as the project continues to progress.

"I think the it's still just a matter of sorting out all the issues and then finalizing it," Jackson said.

Hatton added in the meantime, there are perhaps improvements that could be implemented much sooner than any construction project could do to be of help.

"Just make it slow. Make them (drivers) slow down and have those flashing speed limit lights maybe even have a camera. The camera might be expensive, but it won't be a $700 million camera and it could provide other revenue for our police department and our Fremont County, and that instead of costing more."

She says there are already some signs and other road tools that have been of help.

"I've seen right now the state has these signs where you leave Chester into Ashton and it goes from two lanes to one lane and it says right lanes, and you see people merge and it's been very nice, smooth transition. It's just that little heads up warning I think all of us did with everything, not just driving just and all that we do."

Brown says the next step for ITD is to read all of the feedback before the department takes further action.

"We try to take all the comments and digest them and classify them. We have kind of a summary breakdown of the comments and we try to accommodate the best we can. The whole reason for this meeting was based on public comment. So we do read your comments."

"I've heard comments about different things. And that's what I want people maybe there's something that we've missed that we want to be able to have their feedback and their input to help develop those alternatives further," Hiatt said.

The next public in-person meeting will be held in the Island Park EMS building at 4378 County Circle
Island Park, ID 83429. All are welcome to attend the event will be from 5 p.m.t to 7 p.m. on Dec. 6.

You can also attend online. You can see the departments alternative plans and provide feedback here.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho
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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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