Kas Dumroese, Moscow
The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 1/14/15
Just because everyone wants an improved U.S. Highway 95 Thorncreek to Moscow doesn’t justify ignoring law, especially by the government. We still drive on old U.S. 95 because the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) ignored law concerning selection of E-2, which required an extensive, expensive, and time-consuming Environmental Impact Statement. Instead, we could be celebrating a decade of driving on an equally well-designed, safe C-3 that uses more of the existing U.S. 95 footprint than E-2 would on the flank of Paradise Ridge.
E-2 is touted by its proponents as having less impact on farming, and is cheaper, shorter, and safer than C-3. What does ITD’s Draft EIS say? Compared to C-3, E-2 converts 55 percent more total land, 100 percent more prime farm land, and 36 percent more farmland of state importance (Table 42, pages 147-148). It also removes 34 percent more land from the Latah County tax base, through new right-of-way acquisitions. E-2 would cost $4 million more to construct than C-3 (page 11). For the nearly six miles of new alignment with either alternative, C-3 would be a whopping 475 feet longer than E-2 (Table 52, page 174). Using ITD’s data (Safety Technical Report Appendix D and page 174) and doing some simple calculations, the chance of safely traversing the “least safe” C-3 route is 99.99951 percent per trip, and it skyrockets to 99.99966 percent if you travel on the “safest” route, E-2. And your chance of an accident at any access/entry point along E-2 (0.0022 percent) is actually double that for C-3 (0.0011 percent).
If you think those differences in length and safety seem tiny, you might be surprised to hear that ITD agrees with you (page 204): “the travel times and safety between Action Alternatives [C-3 and E-2] do not differ substantially.”