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301Weiser's 'Scary' Highway

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  • grfranklin53
    Jun 13, 2007
      What 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


      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
      commissioners maintained.
      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.