301Weiser's 'Scary' Highway
- Jun 13, 2007What a wonderful place to spend the Emmett-Indian Valley money! But
why blame the railroad for not giving up its right-of-way? Do you
want a derailed train plowing into your traffic lane? Best to keep
those iron horses a safe distance from the auto driving public.
Maybe that is what Union Pacific means when its policy is to not give
up its right-of-way.
From The Weiser Signal American, Monday, June 4, 2007, page 1
WEISER'S 'SCARY' HIGHWAY
State planners meet with commissioners
by David Trigueiro
The senior planner for the Idaho Transportation Department
(ITD) Tuesday called US Highway 95 immediately south of Weiser "a
very scary piece of road."
Responding to questions from the Washington County Board of
Commissioners, Phil Choate said he has driven the section of the
highway running parallel to the Union Pacific tracks enough to know
how dangerous it is.
Just last week a pickup truck smashed into the rear-end of a
Ford Taurus waiting to turn across traffic near Cox Road with such
force that the car's rear bumper was pushed into the front seat. No
one was killed, but that may have been due to a matter of luck.
US 95 south of Weiser is a narrow, two-lane highway with no
shoulders and no left or right turn lanes despite the numerous farm
roads crossing it. With heavy car and truck traffic moving at 65 MPH,
it is a matter of when deadly accidents will occur, not if, the
Adding to the danger, Choate acknowledged, is the Union
Pacific's elevated rail-road right-of-way that obscures the view
forward, especially on the long, sweeping curves, which are not
currently marked with double yellow lines as no-passing zones.
"We have made it an internal priority," Choate said, "and we
have people working on it."
Gary Moles, ITD regional engineer for the region including
Washington County, said widening us 95 to include turn lanes is
difficult because Union Pacific will "not give up a single inch of
its right-of-way" bounding the tracks.
"I worked with railroads a lot when I was in eastern Idaho.
It doesn't matter what's on the other side of the road. It could be
a school, an agricultural processing plant of some kind, it doesn't
matter. The rail-road does not give up anything," Moles said.
He said so-called "stacking lanes" are required so that
vehicles waiting to turn are not sitting in traffic lanes. There is
no room to install these extra lanes on current US 95 right-of-way
and widening it where tracks parallel the highway runs smack into
Union Pacific's no encroachment policy.
"The best solution would be to move the highway away from the
tracks," Moles said, "but, that would be very expensive. It all comes
down to money. If you've got it it's great. If you don't, well you
know how that works."
Indeed Washington County and the City of Weiser know how that
works, commented Commission Chairman Rick Michael. They have been
waiting more than 10 years for ITD to replace the Weiser River bridge
where US 95 enters the city. Each time the project has been
scheduled, it has been bumped down the list as other projects are
given higher priority.
"Can you tell us when the bridge will be replaced?" Michael
asked the ITD representatives.
"It's my understanding that it's kind-of targeted for 2012," Choate
replied. "We've got some people working on the design right now."
Choate said ITD's new master plan for this district should
eliminate the confusion over the timing of projects. They have
created a separate list that identifies projects planned for the
future, but not scheduled.
Previously, all projects were placed on the State
Transportation Investment Plan (STRIP) whether in their preliminary
development stage or actually scheduled. The five-year master plan
would create a separate list for projects in preliminary
development. "That way we won't bury projects. They will move to the
STRIP when actually slated for development."
Corridor Management Plans currently under development will
encourage active public participation and work with local governments
to coordinate projects and integrate outside funding such as impact
fees collected by cities and counties from property developers.
"We want to improve the process by coming here regularly to
talk to people in the community and local governments. We expect you
to be critical; that's the only way it can work," Choate said.
Using the STRIP plan for Washington County, the commissioners
questioned several of the projects scheduled over the next five
years. In particular a railroad crossing gate at Crystal Lane south
of Weiser budgeted at $355,000 for 2009.
Commissioner Diana Thomas noted that Crystal Lane on the west
side of U.S. 95 leading to the Snake River has only a few residences.
The River Dock Road crossing, on the other hand, is scheduled to get
only a railroad signal, but provides access to the Weiser Airport, an
industrial area and numerous residences giving it considerably more
traffic than Crystal Lane.
Choate said he was unable to get a satisfactory answer from
ITD's railroad division head when he put the question to him. He
suggested that the commissioners contact the division head directly
and perhaps they could have better luck than he did.