A legislator from southeastern Idaho has kept his promise. As a result, area residents who travel a terrible stretch of U.S. Highway 95 just south of Coeur d’Alene have hope it will be fixed - even if the Legislature again refuses to upgrade the entire highway.
Last year, state Sen. Evan Frasure, R-Pocatello, was the stumbling block for an attempt to float a statewide bond to reconstruct “the goat trail.” As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, he cast the tie-breaking vote that killed the grand plan. Afterward, he said he was bothered by some sections of the Highway 95 bill but “was very interested in solving the problem.”
Normally, such sentiments could be dismissed as political posturing. But Frasure proved himself a friend of the Idaho Panhandle when he spent last summer conducting hearings and seeing the dangerous roadway for himself. He underscored his commitment to safety last week when he asked Idaho Transportation Director Dwight Bower to add the Kootenai County project to the state’s five-year construction plan.
North Idahoans, of course, want hazardous Highway 95 rebuilt from the Canadian border to Nevada. However, they’d be served well if this local project moves ahead while their representatives fight to fund reconstruction for the entire highway. The treacherous section winds eight miles, from Mica Hill to Bellgrove, just past the Fighting Creek landfill. It has no shoulders or passing lanes and becomes deadly in the winter, as vehicle accidents during the past few months have proven again.
Frasure and Bower were in the audience Friday when state Rep. Don Pischner, R-Coeur d’Alene, tried to persuade the budget committee to fund the $12 million project. Skittish legislators refused to do so on a 12-7 vote. But Frasure wouldn’t let Bower off the hook afterward. The powerful chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee promised to “get involved” if Bower didn’t find a way to fix the Kootenai County highway. Said Frasure after the confrontation: “It needs to be put on the radar screen. It’s a bad bottleneck.”
Until now, the project has languished as one of many in the ITD’s Highway Needs Report. Bower didn’t think the stretch was particularly bad. But he doesn’t have to drive it daily - or scrape accident victims off the road. Maybe North Idaho’s new friend in high places finally has helped him see the light.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board