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ITD responds to Chester community concerns surrounding Highway 20 project

CHESTER, Idaho (KIFI) - More than 100 people in the small community of Chester, Idaho, are petitioning plans by the Idaho Transportation Department to consolidate Highway 20 through the area.

The small rural community was established in the 1880's. The people who live in Chester mostly farm or travel to larger cities for work. They know their neighbors and love their post office.

But the people who live here are worried a new project from the Idaho Transportation Department could disrupt their way of life.

The project would effectively close the highway entrances and exits, consolidating them into two interchanges.

Chester resident Keith Blanchard says nearly everyone in the town is afraid their community will be cut in two.

"That's kind of the heart of the chester area," said Keith's next door neighbor and former Fremont county commissioner Skip Hurt. "The folks on this side, on the east side would be isolated from that. They would have to go around."

Local News 8 brought their concerns to the Idaho Transportation Department, and they say while they empathize with the community, the benefits of this project far outweigh the additional travel time.

"We had seen over the 20 years that we were able to remove those crossings and build interchanges that fatality accidents reduced down to almost zero through the corridor that we've been able to build them," said Karen Hiatt of ITD. "Because it is safer to go around, we still feel like that's going to be a huge benefit to the community in the whole."

Keith's group is petitioning ITD to build an overpass bridge so their community can safely cross over the highway as before.

But according to ITD, building an overpass would disrupt the area wetlands, railroad and several homes in the community. They say it's just not a feasible option.

In response, we asked ITD if there was a third option the people in Chester could appeal for.

"Is there a third option that the people of chester can push for?" Seth Ratliff asked Hiatt. "Or is it really just something that they need to get used to for the safety aspect?"

"I would say there's there's not many alternatives that would work right at that location for an overpass," Hiatt responded. "They may have to understand that, yes, it may take another few minutes to get from one side to the other, but really, if they're able to get from one point to the other safer, that's really what our goal is."

Learning this, we went back to speak with Keith Blanchard. He said, "But we sure do want that overpass, because it just would make a world of difference for a lot of people up here. Chester's growing just like other communities now, and there's a whole bunch of people living up in this area and more moving in all the time, and more will move in and out here. and we really do need that."

According to ITD, construction for the project most likely won't start until after 2029. Until then, they encourage the residents of Chester to bring their concerns to the transportation department during public meetings surrounding the project.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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