Opponents and supporters interact with state highway officials during Moscow visit.
Members of the Idaho Transportation Board toured the state’s preferred route for realignment and expansion of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow on Thursday.
Janice Vassar, the board representative for ITD’s District 2, which includes Moscow and Lewiston, described the view from the chosen route as “spectacular.”
But opponents of the preferred plan were also on hand afterward at an event hosted by the City of Moscow and University of Idaho for the seven-member board.
The final environmental impact statement supporting the choice known as E-2 from Thorn Creek Road to Moscow was sent to the Federal Highway Administration from the Idaho Transportation Department’s environmental office this week. It was the culmination of an 11-year, court-ordered process.
Vassar noted that she is among those who recommended the E-2 route as the most viable alternative among those earlier proposed. E-2 would cross Paradise Ridge and use a significant amount of the existing route.
Representatives from the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, a long-time opponent, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), more associated with opposition to megaloads, were at the event handling out literature and bumper stickers to people in attendance. Both groups are against the E-2 route choice, which would run through the west flank of Paradise Ridge.
Among reasons the opponents say they don’t like the state’s preferred route: heavy losses of wetlands, prime farmland, and conservation reserve; removal of acres of pine stands and related habitat. It also would displace several residences, cause more noise, have a wider visual impact, and not be the safest for travel, they asserted.
Opponents also believe the route would be unsafe, because it is higher than other routes and would abandon portions of U.S. 95, which would become county road.
Supporters say the upgrade to four lanes from two will provide adequate additional safety, and say that site analysis proves this point.
“Despite 15 years of resistance, ITD has chosen the E-2 route, the farthest east and highest on the shoulder of Paradise Ridge,” said Helen Yost of WIRT.
There were E-2 supporters on hand as well. Two residents living along the current U.S. 95 watched the board’s tour along Zietler and Cameron roads.
Del Hungerford expects she’ll lose her home as a result of the proposed route, but said she believes it’s the most sound proposal for the highway to be improved.
“It just needs to get done,” she said.
“They’ve been doing this since 1995,” said Cathy Merickel, who lives near the existing highway, about the project moving forward. “It’s time for a safe highway between Moscow and Lewiston.”