The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC), its organizational partners (including Wild Idaho Rising Tide), and concerned Moscow area citizens invite regional public involvement at an informational meeting followed by site visits on Saturday, March 16. Everyone is welcome to consider and discuss Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) plans to reroute U.S. Highway 95 between Thorn Creek Road and Moscow, at the Alternative Highway 95 Forum and Field Trip starting at the 1912 Center Great Room, 412 East Third Street in Moscow.
From noon to 2 pm in the Great Room, community members will talk about ITD’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and technical reports on three alternatives for proposed highway realignment. While presenting arguments supporting the central C-3 alternative and opposing the ITD-preferred eastern E-2 alternative, the knowledge-sharing session will encourage participant questions and insights. Between 2 and 5 pm, event organizers and participants will carpool to locations along and near the proposed C-3 and E-2 routes. Several area residents will host pertinent site visits and talks off Eid, Paradise Ridge, and Zeitler roads and Highway 95. Travelers should dress warmly and bring beverages and snacks if desired.
Of the three DEIS options, PRDC and its allies favor the C-3 alternative, which would upgrade, straighten, and widen the current route to four lanes. The E-2 alternative would climb over the shoulder of Paradise Ridge, and the western W-4 alternative would veer close to Washington. Though all three alternatives would make the 6.5-mile section of Highway 95 south of Moscow much safer, C-3 would provide the best long-term benefits for people, property, and the environment.
The coalition is confident that ITD could build a better, safer highway with the C-3 alignment, by engineering a new section and bringing the remaining roadbed up to Federal Highway Administration safety standards. On C-3, motorists would avoid the potentially greater number of weather-influenced accidents and big game collisions on E-2, which could result from its higher elevation, more severe weather, and more suitable surrounding wildlife habitat. Conversely, construction of the E-2 route would relinquish the dangerous stretches of Highway 95 near Reisenauer Hill to Latah County for maintenance. The poorly placed and graded former highway would impose safety hazards on a quarter of the current local drivers and service and emergency vehicles that would still frequent it.
According to ITD right-of-way personnel, the C-3 route would only increase noise at roadside businesses and relocate one home, contrasted with E-2’s displacement of all the residents of a mobile home park and house on Eid Road. Unlike the E-2 alternative that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have rejected, the C-3 alignment would affect far fewer acres of prime Palouse farmland and wetlands. It would also foster better opportunities to restore some of the last, best native Palouse Prairie remnants left in the world, as parts of a critically endangered ecosystem surviving perilously close to the suggested E-2 route on Paradise Ridge slopes.
PRDC is eager for resolution of this Highway 95 realignment project, after ITD’s ten-year DEIS delay and failure to mitigate safety problems and inevitable impacts on homes and businesses within the corridor. The state agency is accepting public comments about the safest, least disruptive alternative until March 25. Coalition members urge fellow citizens to learn more about the highway proposal by attending the Alternative Highway 95 Forum and Field Trip, visiting the PRDC website at Paradise-Ridge-Defense.org, and perusing and commenting on the DEIS at US95ThornCreek.com. PRDC plans to continue gathering signatures on its petition opposing E-2 (please sign it!) and to offer further community outreach and educational events.