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Major expansion project planned for busy Idaho Falls intersection

Crime Watch

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IDAHO FALLS — Big plans are underway for the intersection of Woodruff Avenue and 17th Street in Idaho Falls.

The Federal Highway Administration and the Idaho Transportation Department have identified the project as “a public need,” according to a city of Idaho Falls news release. Both agencies said the intersection needs work to serve traffic better as Idaho Falls continues to grow.

“As anyone that travels through this particular area, they probably will take note that the intersection is in need of safety improvements and also help with the through capacity,” Idaho Falls Public Works Director Chris Fredericksen said at a city council meeting last week.

While officials and engineers have been working on designing the updated intersection since 2016, the city council passed two items related to the project – one of which involved condemning property to secure it for the project.

“We take property rights very seriously,” Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said in a statement. “A lot of deliberation went into this decision. City staff went back and forth with the property owner with various offers to acquire the property for these needed improvements.”

Casper further explained with the help of a court, the city will ensure the property owner is compensated at market value. She also said these were only two of the 16 agreements as part of the project.

“To date, the vast majority have been addressed with ease,” Casper said. “Most residents are excited about the project.”

The city says it has eminent domain authority to acquire the property for the right-of-way needed to complete the project.

“We’d like to avoid that eminent domain issue anytime we can,” Councilman Jim Freeman said at Thursday’s city council meeting. “We’re are just at a kind of point now where we’re at a standstill. We got everything else on board and we need to get this project moving forward. We are where we are, I feel bad about it, but it’s something we need to do.”

The council unanimously voted to pay $279,411 to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise for a right-of-way agreement to complete the intersection improvements. The city will get a 92.66% reimbursement from federal funding to help pay for the acquisition of the land, according to city spokeswoman Kerry Hammon.

“This federal aid project is very similar in nature to what was constructed a couple of years ago at 17th Street and Hitt Road,” Fredericksen told the council. “We’re looking at similar type lane additions to add additional left and right turn lanes.”

As part of the project and with the right-of-way agreement with the Catholic Diocese, the city will landscape the right-of-way area to the church’s satisfaction.

Physical Construction on the project is expected to take place in 2022, according to city officials.