October 13, 1997 in Nation/World

‘Goat Trail’ May Yet Be Made Safe

By The Spokesman-Review

After a pre-Thanksgiving landslide closed U.S. Highway 95 last year, Lewiston Tribune columnist Bill Hall lamented that road crews had reopened it. For the first time since Boise had stolen the state capital from Lewiston, he wrote, North Idaho was free.

“Frankly,” Hall quipped, “if this wasn’t sabotage, if some creative northerner didn’t do it deliberately, he should have. Southerners have taken over the state government and they have not always been good to us.”

In truth, the “southerners” in the Idaho Legislature allowed U.S. 95 to remain in such poor shape for so long. They had the votes to upgrade the 538-mile death trap. Unfortunately, few of them were forced to drive a highway that claimed 114 lives in traffic accidents between 1990 and 1994. So, they didn’t seem to care that a rock slide or a washout could cause a 360-mile detour.

But there are signs that southern Idaho lawmakers are beginning to notice U.S. 95, a road former Gov. Cecil Andrus unaffectionately labeled “the goat trail.”

During the past two sessions, bills by state Rep. Hilde Kellogg, R-Post Falls, to improve the highway have gained support. Now, Evan Frasure, chairman of the State Transportation Committee, transportation officials and lawmakers will spend this week touring U.S. 95 and conducting 13 public meetings.

The series of meetings will kick off tonight in Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene. If you drive U.S. 95 or have a University of Idaho student who does, you should attend to lobby for improvements.

State Sen. Jack Riggs, R-Coeur d’Alene, has joined Kellogg in proposing a construction plan to straighten and widen the highway to 34 feet. The proposal also calls for passing lanes a minimum of every four miles and four-lane segments between Sandpoint and Plummer, Moscow and Lewiston, and Emmett and Boise.

Said Riggs: “As a physician, I can no longer sit idly by and watch children die needlessly on that road.”

Last year, four UI students were killed in crashes on Highway 95. Since Horizon Air announced it will no longer fly between Moscow and Boise, some parents in southern Idaho reconsidered sending their children to the UI.

For once, the southerners have learned how the other half of the state feels.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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