Idaho Falls resident Dennis Warr said he is frustrated that it takes him half an hour to get through the intersections near the Snake River in Idaho Falls during rush hour. So, he brought a hand-drawn map of suggested improvements to an open house with the Idaho Transportation Department on Wednesday, May 9.
The meeting, held at Temple View Elementary School in Idaho Falls, gave the public an opportunity to learn about the current state of six intersections of Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 20 and provide suggestions for improvement. The open house offered an opportunity for public input on changes needed before ITD makes official plans.
“We know there are some issues here and we are trying to find the best solutions,” said Ryan Day, project manager and ITD engineer.
To participate in further discussions about changes, the public can provide feedback by visiting Idaho Transportation Department website until May 30.
Drew Meppen, assistant project manager and ITD engineer, said as they collect data and make preliminary plans, ITD is focusing on public safety, mobility and economic opportunity.
To fund and implement proposed changes on this section of I-15 and U.S. 20, ITD, the City of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County are working together. The proposed areas of improvement include the intersections at I-15 Exit 118 to Broadway and the Historic Downtown District, I-15 Exit 119 to U.S. 20 and Grandview Drive, U.S. 20 Exit 307 to Lindsay Boulevard, U.S. 20 Exit 308 to Riverside Drive and City Center, U.S. 20 Exit 309 to Science Center Drive, and U.S. 20 Exit 310 to Lewisville Highway.
ITD also sought input on a potential expressway that could speed traffic heading past Idaho Falls toward Rexburg.
Part of this planning includes a planning and environmental linkage study that started in fall 2017, according to the ITD website. This study will collect data on how the project might impact the area, determine short-, mid- and long-term improvements, develop a plan for safe and efficient travel for all users and make data from the environmental study available to the public.
Planning and environmental linkage studies are beneficial because they examine all potential environmental impacts, help develop a step-by-step plan for multiple improvements and allow funding to come from multiple sources. According to the Federal Highway Administration website, the studies allow for environmental, community and economic goals to be considered earlier in the planning process so the information helps speed up the project timeline.
Planning and environmental linkage studies take about 18 months to complete and this study should be finished around fall 2019, according to the project information on ITD’s website.
Proposed improvements are planned to handle 20 to 25 years of growth, according to Wade Allen, engineering manager for ITD. They determine this by Level of Service ratings which range from A to F — A meaning no delays, and F meaning significant delays.
Allen said that they hope to keep I-15 and U.S. 20 operating above the C-level of service. Currently, many of the roads through this section of I-15 and U.S. 20 operate in the B to D range but are projected to have critical sections operating at D and F levels by 2045 if no changes are made.