Critics question process for selection of U.S. 95 route through prairie.
The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is defending its controversial plan to build a four-lane highway next to one of the most endangered prairie ecosystems in North America, touting the route’s increased safety.
District 2 engineer Jim Carpenter said the new road will cut in half the number of accidents on U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow.
“We did follow a thorough process through this,” he said. “The department’s goal is to be sensitive to the environmentally sensitive areas.”
ITD has drawn criticism for its plan to re-route a curvy, two-lane stretch of Highway 95 over Paradise Ridge, a popular landmark south of Moscow.
Read more: ITD Officials Defend Palouse Plan
(By Benjamin Shors, staff writer, The Spokesman-Review, November 8, 2002)
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Tucked against Paradise Ridge, the small patch of low shrubs and bunchgrass appears unremarkable.
Yet this ten-acre parcel south of Moscow is one of the last, best remnants of the Palouse Prairie, one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America.
It is here that the Idaho Transportation Department plans to build a $17 million, four-lane stretch of highway, past the hawthorn bushes and wild rose.
“There’s really no Palouse Prairie left,” said Matt Finer, a Washington State University doctoral candidate studying the prairie. “Paradise Ridge is one of the last good spots. And the state wants a highway here? It’s unimaginable.”
But it is the route chosen by the Idaho Transportation Board last week over the objections of the state Department of Fish and Game, conservationists, and local homeowners.
Read more: Paving Paradise
(By The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, October 27, 2002)