ITD taking public input on changes to 6 highway interchanges in Idaho Falls
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IDAHO FALLS — During peak traffic hours every day thousands of people zoom in and out of Idaho Falls from Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 20.
But as the Idaho Falls-area has grown, so has traffic congestion and slowdowns during busy periods. Idaho Transportation Department officials say that’s becoming a problem for drivers and it’s also putting a great deal of wear and tear on the already aging infrastructure.
In order to find the best solution to these problems, the Idaho Transportation Department is conducting extensive research and taking suggestions from the public. To get the public more involved in the process ITD recently held a meeting called the I-15, US 20 Connector Open House to discuss potential solutions.
“The meeting was a project update of where we’re at in the process and what we’re doing,” ITD District 5 and 6 spokeswoman Megan Stark says.
Public input is vital, officials say, because although these issues are already a problem, Stark says solutions are long-term and won’t be implemented until the distant future. It’s important to know what the community wants now so they are prepared to adapt these long-term projects with the desires of residents.
Right now the department is still in its brainstorming phase and the next open meeting will most likely be held in Spring 2019, Stark says.
“This is a very long process. We honestly don’t know when we would be able to start construction,” Stark says.
Right now the discussion is mainly focused around the four interchanges coming into Idaho Falls from US 20 (exits 307, 308, 309, 310) and two on I-15 (exits 118 and 119). During the recent meetings 10 diagrams of proposed solutions were shown about how to potentially alleviate traffic.
Solutions like a “Texas Turnaround,” is a lane allowing cars to travel on one side of a one-way frontage road to U-turn onto an opposite frontage road. Another option is to build connector ramps that allow traffic to flow between highways without intersections.
“All we’re doing right now is just simply getting studies, getting alternatives at least on paper,” Stark says.
The largest conversation piece on the public’s mind has been Exit 119, the off-ramp intersection combination leading from I-15 to US 20 on the edge of Idaho Falls.
“That seems to be where the most congestion hits due to obvious reasons,” Stark says.
Although this area is a hot topic, Stark says it doesn’t mean it will be the first to be changed. She says all six interchanges have issues and are being reviewed. Once changes do start happening construction would not occur simultaneously.
“We still don’t know what we’re doing yet, as we’re still trying to get it all figured out with the public,” Stark says. “We would have to go one step at a time, which takes a long time.”
Stark says at this time the department is continuing to conduct research and assessing the impacts. She says the public can officially submit ideas to ITD through Sept. 19, but there will be other opportunities to provide input in the future.
“There’s actually a huge process through this, and with that in mind it could take seven years, it could take five years, it could take 10 years. It just depends on how much impact that we’re going to have,” Stark says.