POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - It's no secret that Idaho is growing. In fact, the Gem State has seen nearly a 12 percent population increase over the last decade. While most of that growth has come to Boise and the surrounding areas, there is talk of a similar population boom in southeastern Idaho. Now, people are wondering if we and our roads are ready.
"In the last twenty years, we’ve seen about a two percent growth and that’s been pretty steady," Corey Krantz, traffic engineer for district 5 of the Idaho Transportation Department, said. "Boise Valley has definitely exploded. They talk about us being maybe the next Wasatch front here, at least developers would like to promote that, and if that truly is the case, then we are unprepared.”
With that in mind, groups like ITD are working to try and see what’s coming down the line.
“I don’t know if we’re going to be as far ahead of the curve as we would like, but we’re going to be more prepared than we are,” Krantz said.
Currently, ITD is replacing old structures and setting up parts of I-15 for a potential expansion to three lanes. But don't plan on seeing that anytime soon.
"It’ll be a long time before we can utilize that," Krantz said, "but we can start planning those types of things now."
Major projects like that could cost millions, if not billions, and take over 30 years to see. In the meantime, cities like Pocatello are regularly working to alleviate the day-to-day congestion on local roads from the city’s new traffic center.
"We did some signal timing adjustments throughout the corridor and we were able to lower some of the travel times upwards of thirty seconds," Tom Kirkman, deputy public works director for the City of Pocatello, explained.
"Thirty seconds doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but if you’re sitting at a traffic signal, thirty seconds seems like a lifetime. So, we’re able to do a lot of that development at this traffic center."
With nearly 200 cameras at intersections around town and new technology that tracks vehicles through Bluetooth, Kirkman and others can make daily adjustments with the changing flow of traffic--even with potential population increases.
"We’re in a very good spot now to where we have, you know, a very intelligent traffic center and we have very intelligent people running our traffic center, now we can monitor the growth and as we see the growth happening we can make educated decisions because we’re kind of on the cutting edge of that," Kirkman said.
Whether that population influx will actually hit southeastern Idaho is yet to be seen, but local agencies are working to make sure that it doesn’t ruin the commute of the workforce of the future.
According to Krantz, many of ITD’s big regional projects are still in the planning phases. The thing that will determine the fate of those is funding, much of which he says is currently focused on the Boise area.