POCATELLO — A ceremonial groundbreaking Monday afternoon marked the beginning of work that, over the coming years, will see the “Flying Y” interchange in Pocatello totally remodeled.
A new Interstate 15-Interstate 86 system interchange will create safer merging while increasing vehicle capacity. And the Chubbuck Road overpass will become an underpass with a pedestrian and bicycle pathway.
This is the first development as part of Governor Brad Little’s Leading Idaho initiative.
“This fills in all the blanks,” Little said after the ceremony. “This fixes infrastructure, this does safety, this does commuting. This really checks all the boxes.”
As Idaho Transportation Department Director Scott Stokes explained, this project solves more than just an issue of overdue modernization to the interchange. With the bridges and overpasses in and around the interchange nearing their life expectancy, this development is a matter of safety.
ITD Public Information Office Justin Smith told EastIdahoNews.com that about 40,000 vehicles use the current interchange daily. With development in Pocatello, Chubbuck and surrounding cities, that number is only expected to increase in the coming years.
That was why Little said this development received a unanimous vote for support from the state legislature, despite every district having its own needs.
“This one, because it’s got a safety factor, it rises a step or two,” the governor said. “It was OK when we had a lot less traffic, but as you add more and more traffic then safety becomes a bigger concern.”
The development will also have a positive impact on the Pocatello-Chubbuck community and beyond. Stokes said it will affect an intersection of two main arteries serving Idaho and the region.
“It’s just going to enhance the quality of life for Idaho all the way around,” he said.
While I-15 and I-86 will remain fully operational throughout the process, the Chubbuck Road overpass from Fairgrounds Road to Sacajawea Drive will be closed for more than two years.
Little believes that the inconvenience of this closure will “absolutely” be worth it once the work is complete.
“We’ll have that orange barrel rodeo that will take place for a little while,” he joked. “In the end, guaranteed, it’s going to be worth it. But a little patience would be helpful.”
The closure of the Chubbuck Road overpass had been scheduled for Aug. 1. But, as Smith explained, that has been pushed out at least a week.