REXBURG, Idaho (KIFI) - Business owners and community leaders were briefed about proposed changes to the US 20 overpasses in Rexburg.
Idaho Transportation Department is planning to build two new diverging diamonds with construction to begin in 2024.
On Wednesday, the Rexburg Chamber of Commerce held a forum for the project to inform business owners and other members of the public how the project will affect the city.
In the meeting, Janalyn Holt, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said, "Rexburg is growing, It's an exciting time to be a part of this community and our businesses are growing. With that growth and development, so these exciting changes with the traffic flow, what is happening where it is making a priority for us, for our economic development is so exciting for all of us."
Holt says many are thankful for the city's leaders for working with the Idaho Transportation Department to bring this positive change to the area.
"The the leaders and officials of Rexburg have a forward thinking mindset like we are looking to this to make something work wonderfully for the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. And we appreciate that. We want easy access into Rexburg so people can come in and see how wonderful all of our businesses are."
Holt says many were able to come to this forum to learn how this project could help.
"In fact, there were several people here that aren't chamber members but just wanted they were very interested in this topic. What it is going to do for our business community, absolute gratitude that we are on the radar for this to happen in the next year or so, whatever we can do to support and then to maximize this effort to maximize our business."
Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill was present at the forum and says the reception of the project was warm.
"I think the diverging diamonds will be very well accepted. They're new and different. So, you know, people will probably be a little nervous about them at first. But they're they're very easy. I've been through several of them in different areas and they're very easy to to adjust to and once people are used to them, they will be so much better."
Mayor Merrill says the concern of having an influx of traffic spurred the city to ask for a big change.
"It certain times of the year when the BYU-Idaho students are returning and when they're leaving. And we have some big traffic congestion issues and every morning and in the afternoon when the high school students are getting out of school, it can be a big problem. We get traffic backups up under the freeway on the Highway 20 and this will be a great solution to help alleviate those those problems."
Justin Smith the spokesperson for ITD says a diverging diamond keeps traffic flowing without causing build-up.
"A properly designed Diverging Diamond Interchange will funnel people through it. And once you understand that, you realize it's actually making it safer for you. And we want to be safe. We take it personally when we hear of fatalities. We take it personally when we hear that some kid, you know, got T-boned on U.S. 20. So that's why we're working on all these projects. We are trying to do what we can to improve safety."
Smith says Wednesdays forum went perfectly.
"Rexburg is a great little community. It's a tight knit community. We've got BYU, Idaho here, but it's growing really fast. You know, just within the last ten years, we've seen a number of apartment buildings go up. Everything is expanding. And we're talking about a new temple on the north end. So the community has a forward vision and that's something that's really refreshing to see," Smith said. "They want to move forward and they've been great partners with the mayors. It has been with us all the way. BYU has been working with us. So, you know, this was a real pleasure for us to come and speak with this group. We have similar relationships with other places, but Rexburg is really wanted to make this project work. And you know, the reception today is exactly what we would have hoped for."
Smith also says once implemented people may have mixed reactions to the change.
"Their first reaction is going to be, I'm supposed to be on the right side. It's okay for the lane markings, all the signs. It will lead you over to the left side. What's really nice is as you leave on to us 20 or as you come off us 20, you have a much freer flow of traffic as you go through," he said. "It takes a little bit to get used to, but once you do, you find that you spend less time in an intersection. You find that you have fewer near misses. And what we've found is traffic flows better with and not as many severe accidents. And that's something that really concerns us. We saw in Chubbuck when we put that in, that there was a precipitous drop in severe accidents at that interchange. So instead of a head on or a T-Bone, if we do see an accident, typically it's a sideswipe. And that's much better for the community."
Smith says the hope is to start the project in 2024 working quickly in between the dates for BYU-I's Graduation, and move in days to ease congestion in the area., but if things work out for the department, work on the project could possibly start as early as 2023.