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Governor visits Island Park leading to a pause to an ITD future project

ISLAND PARK, Idaho (KIFI)- The Idaho Transportation Department has been studying the feasibility and environmental effects of widening the stretch of Highway 20 from Chester to the Junction with Highway 87 near Island Park. The City of Island Park has continuously raised concerns about the project and the impact it could have on the city.

Recently, Idaho's Governor Brad Little and many other state representatives along with ITD personnel came to visit the city and listen to the concerns residents had about the project.

Island Park mayor Mike Bogden, says the visit was not only comforting for the residents to know their voices were heard on the matter, but it also led to direct action on the project.

"They were very interested in our opinions. And they decided to reevaluate...Everybody's just been really, really good about working with us."

He says the main worry for people within the city limits is that if the road is widened, many of the small businesses rely on the tourists that drive through, worry that the traffic to those businesses may disappear.

"We've only got 2 and a half months to make enough money to get through the winter... We basically have 75 days where we're really busy and then it trails off on either side," Bogden said.

Bogden says he is thankful for the state and ITD to work with them and find a way to address those concerns that they have.

"We all live in the state. We all love the state. We all want the best for the state."

A spokesperson for ITD Justin Smith says overall everyone involved is wanting to find a solution that will help everyone.

"There's a real diversity of opinion on what the best answer would be," Smith said. "And we're trying to distill that down to come up with a solution."

He says the process to come up with that solution is a long and intensive process but everyone is trying to work together.

"The key is, you know, everybody is trying to do the right thing. The people in Highland Park are trying to do the right thing. Fremont County is trying to do the right thing. Politicians are trying to do the right thing and it is trying to do the right thing," Smith said.

Smith says the project is not necessarily canceled, but just going through a process of reevaluation. He says while the project is getting reevaluated something will need to be done to help the future of the highway in the area.

"This is US 20 is a US highway. It's the main art artery in Montana. And so as we look at it, we have to try to balance all those different points of view," Smith said.

Smith reminds us ITD is doing a lot to improve the US 20 corridor, from Idaho Falls to the Montana Border. He says if you want to see some of the projects they have upcoming you can go here.

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Braydon Wilson

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

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