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State finds money to close gap in new North Idaho freeway

The big Garwood-to-Sagle freeway project on U.S. Highway 95 in North Idaho won’t have a two-lane bottleneck at its south end after all, the Idaho Transportation Board decided Thursday.

The board designated $15.8 million in economic stimulus funds toward expanding the stretch from Wyoming Avenue in Hayden to the Idaho 53 junction to four lanes; the money will come from savings after bids on other stimulus projects came in lower than expected.

The Dover Bridge replacement alone came in $15.2 million below estimates; a freeway interchange in Boise came in $21.2 million low.

The highway already is four lanes south of Wyoming Avenue. But plans for the new freeway left a two-mile gap; legislation to fix that this year got shot down in last-minute scuffling between the House and Senate.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said, “Funneling traffic from four lanes to two lanes in this short section creates a real safety risk that needs to be eliminated.”

He said, “Designating some of the savings from stimulus projects to this heavily traveled segment of U.S. 95 makes good sense.”

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