The winding, dangerous stretch of U.S. Highway 95 that climbs north from Bonners Ferry is about to be straightened.
Scheduled to start next summer, that project will be the biggest one in an extraordinarily busy construction year for the Idaho Transportation Department’s North Idaho district.
“The number of projects we have is so far beyond our ability to put them out,” district engineer Scott Stokes said this week. “We’ve hired a lot of consultants.”
The workload is all the heavier because the department has been overseeing scores of road repairs needed because of flood damage.
Even though the repairs are sponsored by counties or local highway districts, federal funding requires that the state be involved in emergency response projects.
“At one time we had 158 projects in the district, and probably 35 to 40 of those were ER projects,” said Kerby Cole, project development engineer. “Normally, we have 100 projects.”
State highway construction in 1998 will include:
The $18 million North Hill reconstruction on U.S. 95. The people of Bonners Ferry have lobbied for years to get the state to do something about the winding stretch of road. It’s been dubbed “Pork Chop Hill” because of the stock trucks that have overturned on the busy trade route from Canada.
“There will be a new alignment to bypass all those curves,” Stokes said. “It’ll probably take two summers to do that.”
Bids will go out in May or June, he said.
The addition of three traffic signals on U.S. 95, north of Coeur d’Alene. They’ll be installed at the intersections of Idaho Highway 53, Garwood Road, and Idaho Highway 54 at Athol. That will slow down motorists accustomed to highway speeds.
The decision to install the lights, at $150,000 each, was made after analyzing accident statistics, Stokes said. “We try to resist that in order to have good traffic flow. At a certain point, there’s so much pressure from adjacent roads.”
Resurfacing of the U.S. 95 bridge over the Spokane River in Coeur d’Alene.
“That will be a real tricky one to handle traffic on because it’s so narrow,” Stokes said. “There’s no way we can stage repairs and not delay traffic.”
Contractors will be given incentives to do that job quickly, he said.
Resurfacing state highways 3 and 97, north of their junction on the east side of Lake Coeur d’Alene. On Highway 97, the paving will be done as far as Harrison; on Highway 3, it will extend to Swan Creek.
Relocation of Highway 3 at St. Maries to eliminate a hairpin turn and improve the stretch atop the Meadowhurst levee.
Stokes was relieved that environmental approval for the work finally came through last week. He was hoping that would happen last February.
“That’s a major milestone for us,” he said. “That project has everything. It has wetlands, it has eagles, it has a historic house. It has an airport.”
Installation of a guard rail between Highway 97 and Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Wolf Lodge Creek.
In 1999, the old wooden bridges over Wolf Lodge and Beauty creeks will be replaced and the highway resurfaced along that stretch of road.
During all the construction work, Stokes said, the transportation department will do its best to limit inconvenience to motorists.
For example, he said, all work was done at night when seven miles of Highway 41 were resurfaced this year between Post Falls and Rathdrum.
In all, 120 miles of lanes were resurfaced on the Panhandle’s state highways in 1997. That included I-90 between Kellogg and Osburn; Highway 3 from Santa to Soldier Creek; and U.S. 95 from the Kootenai Cutoff through Colburn.
Motorists who would like to make a plea for other projects would be well advised to do so now, according to Cole. The district is starting work on its next five-year construction plan, which is updated annually.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: 1998 North Idaho highway projects