The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) recently announced plans to convert U.S. Highway 95 in Sagle to a freeway. A postcard mailed to area residents states that “Recent growth, congestion, and safety issues in the area between Dufort Road and Lakeshore Drive has prompted ITDS to re-visit plans for future improvements.”

ITD’s Preferred Concept, which was unveiled at an open house on November 16th, includes:

  • Construction of a four-lane divided freeway with frontage roads.
  • Overpasses at Ivy Drive, Algoma Spur, Monarch Road, North Gun Club Road, and Bottle Bay Road.
  • Interchanges at Dufort and Brisboys Roads.
  • Moving the Sagle Community Trail to the west side of the highway between the highway and the frontage road. The trail would extend from the Long Bridge to Ivy Drive.
  • Use of eminent domain in order to acquire the substantial amount of property needed for the project.

Expansion of the Long Bridge is not proposed at this time.

The Preferred Concept will result in a total of eight lanes of traffic throughout almost the entire corridor. It will impact a substantial amount of private property, agricultural land, forest land, and wetlands, most of which will have to be purchased or acquired through eminent domain. Dozens of businesses and property owners will be forced to relocate or close.

While constructing a freeway may improve vehicular mobility on U.S. 95 in the short-term, there are numerous examples around the country where highway expansion projects have induced more traffic and congestion in the long-term. Even when mobility on the highway is improved, the traffic congestion and safety issues are simply transferred to the adjacent county roads and frontage roads where local jurisdictions are left to deal with it.

Instead of converting the highway to a freeway, ICL is asking ITD to:

  • Reduce the speed limit from 55 to 45 or even 35 miles per hour in the corridor to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike.
  • Install traffic signals at major intersections with controlled crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Use controlled left-turn signals to reduce the possibility of errors in judgment that could result in collisions with on-coming motorists or pedestrians and cyclists attempting to cross the intersection.
  • Extend the Sagle Community Trail from Sagle Road to Dufort Road to provide better opportunities for people to bike or walk to their destination.
  • Construct a new bike and pedestrian path on the west side of the highway between Pit Road and the Sagle Fire Station.

Time and time again, highway expansion projects have shown that they contribute to the very problems that they purportedly solve. They also cause huge social, economic and environmental impacts by displacing property owners, making it harder to walk or bike, complicating access to local businesses, dividing neighborhoods, eliminating habitat for fish and wildlife, and contributing to climate change, among others.

We hope that ITD will consider other ways to address traffic and safety concerns within the U.S. Highway 95 corridor. You can take action below and let ITD know that you oppose their expansion plan!