David Hall, Moscow
The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 12/22/12
The original report that the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) produced was an environmental assessment (EA), not an improperly done draft environmental impact statement (EIS) as stated in the Daily News’ editorial on December 13. An EA is a much less rigorous review than an EIS, which the court ordered.
Safety is the largest issue here and the supposed reason for the realignment/upgrade. It has not been shown to my satisfaction that the eastern alignment would be safer than, or even as safe as, the other alignment options. There is quite a bit of testimony that there is increased snow, fog, and other hazardous weather and driving conditions on the shoulder of Paradise Ridge compared to the existing route. In addition, the eastern alignment might require deer/elk/moose fencing to attempt to keep game off the highway.
With safety of the driving public of primary importance, why has the Idaho Transportation Department done nothing in the past ten years to improve safety along the existing HIghway 95 route? I am sure there are things that ITD could have done – reducing the speed limits, placing warning signs, and probably some localized realignments. It makes so much more sense to fix the existing route than to plow through a new area.
Federal guidelines advise making maximum use of existing infrastructure. That means using the current, central route. Do we really want to maintain old U.S. 95, new U.S. 95, and U.S. 195? Will Latah County have the funds and ability to make left-over U.S. 95 safe and maintain it if a new alignment is adopted from Thorn Creek to Moscow?
It should also be noted that the EIS was required only because ITD wanted to move the alignment away from the existing location. My understanding is that they could have chosen to upgrade the highway along the existing route without delay.