Group Seeks Different Bend for U.S. 95


Fight against state’s route for wider road south of Moscow reaching critical point

About 50 people attending the annual meeting of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition on Thursday night focused on how to stop the Idaho Transportation Department from carrying out its preferred plan to realign and widen U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow to Thorncreek Road.

The coalition is vehemently opposed to the plan that would use a 6 1/2-mile route referred to as “E-2.”

Several key members of the coalition set up displays in a meeting room of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse in Moscow, and fielded questions about topics such as recreation, area history, and numerous environmental characteristics of the location.

Coalition member Steve Flint talked about safety issues in areas surrounding E-2 that don’t seem to be adequately addressed: potential for more collisions with big game, weather-related accidents because of heavier snowfall in that area, and continued accidents on the portion of U.S. 95 that would become a county road. Continue reading

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Annual Meeting


PRDC Annual Meeting 2015 Flyer, final

Residents of the Palouse Prairie and region,

Will the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) sacrifice the last one percent of original Palouse Prairie?  Could ITD choose a safe, environmentally sound re-route of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow?  ITD and the Federal Highway Administration could issue the final U.S. 95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow Project Environmental Impact Statement, a 30-day review period, and a Record of Decision in summer and fall 2015 [1, 2].  With this final decision and its announcement imminent, you can help make a difference!

As one of five organizational members of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC), Wild Idaho Rising Tide joins PRDC in inviting you to bring your friends and family and participate in the first PRDC Annual Meeting at 7 pm on Thursday, April 16 [3-5].  Among refreshments and concerned citizens gathered around exhibit tables and assembled for brief talks by PRDC board members, you will receive printed and mapped information and learn the most current updates on three Highway 95 realignments proposed by ITD.  Please circulate the attached event flyer, come to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse lower floor at Second and Van Buren streets (behind the 1912 Center in Moscow), and sign-up as a supporting member of PRDC for as little as $5.

For further event and issue information or if you cannot attend, please respond with your questions, suggestions, and/or intentions to become a PRDC member, by e-mailing PRDC board members Mary Ullrich at marysteve@palouse.net and/or Diana Armstrong at diauladell43@yahoo.com, or by mailing your donation to the enclosed address.  Your PRDC membership can greatly assist in supporting an environmentally responsible decision on the Highway 95 realignment south of Moscow.  We hope to see you at this important meeting during a crucial time in the long process of determining a reasonable re-routing of U.S. Highway 95.

Thanks! Continue reading

U.S. 95: Three Alternatives


Steve Flint, Moscow

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 1/29/15

I’ve heard some people comment they had a difficult time following the different options discussed in Kas Dumroese’s letter (January 14) on the planned U.S. Highway 95 realignment south of Moscow.  There are three different routes being considered.  All three routes are four lanes, meet current design standards for safety and ease of travel, but differ considerably in other features.

The Idaho Transportation Department, for unknown reasons, has favored E-2, the eastern route that stays high on Paradise Ridge.  I think of the “E” actually standing for “extreme weather,” as this route is up in the “snow zone,” just like Steakhouse Hill north of Moscow, where there are frequent winter accidents.  (See the Reader Photo of the Day on January 28, for an excellent example of the “snow zone.”)

There is a central route (C-3) that is often close to the existing highway but on a completely new roadbed.  It will be the most useful route for local residents.  The data from the draft environmental impact statement repeatedly show this as the most logical choice (see the summary in Dumroese’s letter).  I suggest we think of the “C” as standing for the “common sense” route.

Then there’s W-4, the poor, orphaned, western route that no one talks much about.  It’s a longer route, so has generated less interest.  How about “W” being “wayward, way-out-west” route?

Three choices but a straightforward decision – just remember the phrases.

No Reisenauer Hill Fix


David Hall, Moscow

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 1/15/15

Oh, a fairy tale from Viola (Letter to the Editor, Van Thompson, December 28): Perhaps we should look at reality here.

Very few Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition members live on Paradise Ridge.  (When someone who does live there speaks up on the issue, people cry “NIMBY.”  When people who do not live there speak out, they are told to stay out of it and let those who are directly affected talk.)

The [proposed] eastern alignment [of U.S. Highway 95] is perhaps shorter by a few hundred feet.  And it is not safer than are other alignments.

Mr. Thompson ignores the fact that the highway, had it been built – illegally – ten years ago, would have left Reisenauer Hill as it is, and accidents would have continued to occur on the hill in that decade.  Were the eastern alignment that ITD prefers to be built now, again Reisenauer Hill would be left, dangerous as it is, likely never to be made safer.  The “family at the bottom of the hill” will continue to have unwanted vehicles in their front yard.

The Numbers on C-3


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.”

Report on Highway 95 Safety Petition & Demonstration


PRDC Safety Petition

Thanks to everyone who signed, circulated, and wrote compelling comments for the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) petition advocating safety measures and sensible re-routing for dangerous U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow, Idaho! [1]  In just three weeks, almost 500 Idaho and American taxpayers contributed their signatures and thoughts to this community effort.  Tim Hatten, a PRDC board member, wrote a much appreciated letter to the editor of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, inviting petition signatures before the 11 pm Wednesday, December 17 deadline [2].  PRDC organizers and board members Diane Baumgart, Stephan Flint, Joann Muneta, Mary Ullrich, and Helen Yost worked hours of outreach to collectively gather 230 hard-won, hand-written signatures, almost matching the 257 online signatures.  On Thursday, December 18, Diane and Mary sent 487 copies of the paper and online petition signatures via overnight mail to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) in Lewiston and to ITD Director Brian Ness and the Federal Highway Administration, both in Boise.  Unfortunately, the half dozen reporters who covered the December 19 PRDC safety demonstration underquoted signature tallies or only mentioned 270 online signatures, as supporters continue to sign the PRDC safety petition.

During the culminating week of this safety campaign, KRFP Radio Free Moscow station manager Leigh Robartes thoroughly covered the background of PRDC’s petition and upcoming Friday demonstration targeting ITD inaction and PRDC proposed resolutions of Highway 95 traffic safety problems [3-5].  The December 16, 17, and 18 KRFP Evening Reports offered excellent, full news stories and an interview with PRDC board member Steve Ullrich, exploring regionally shared concerns about Highway 95 safety and re-routing impacts on native Palouse Prairie remnant habitat and wildlife.

In 2003 and again in 2013, PRDC wrote to ITD, requesting that the state agency implement additional, site-specific, safety measures to mitigate U.S. Highway 95 conditions in the Reisenauer Hill area south of Moscow, Idaho.  PRDC suggested flashing caution signs and enforceable, reduced speed limits to improve safety on the notoriously dangerous stretch of U.S. 95 prone to numerous traffic accidents and fatalities.  Because these previous requests have not produced ITD results, PRDC prepared the current petition urging ITD to immediately take these and other appropriate, interim actions and to consider public safety and highway realignment options that ITD has neglected for decades.  Such efforts could save traveler lives and property, especially during inclement and winter weather, and could preserve the unique, rare, native Palouse Prairie ecosystem that Highway 95 re-routing may soon threaten.

PRDC Safety Demonstration

Regional media and residents and PRDC members made and brought signs and/or gathered on the Highway 95 sidewalk around the Palouse River bridge, south of Palouse River Drive in Moscow, between 1:30 and 4:00 pm on Friday, December 19 [6-8].  The resulting public, roadside demonstration in rotating shifts highlighted shared citizen concerns and supported PRDC-proposed measures to improve public safety on U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow. Continue reading

Group Demonstrates along Highway 95


Moscow-based coalition against current plan for highway realignment highlights safety in roadside display and petition

Drivers rolling in either direction along U.S. Highway 95 on the south end of Moscow on Friday afternoon could see more than a dozen demonstrators on each side of the road near its intersection with Palouse River Drive.

Most of the demonstrators were members of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC), a group that has been fighting for years against the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) preferred realignment route for the first phase of the highway project – a 6 1/2-mile span from Moscow to Thorncreek Road titled “E-2.”  It would cross Paradise Ridge and [not] use a significant amount of the existing route.

Hand-printed messages across brightly colored signs were aimed at students and staff leaving the University of Idaho campus for the winter break.

Some of the signs were meant to be read by order of appearance, in the style of old-time, roadside advertisements.  On display for drivers traveling south were three signs reading “Go Slow,” “Next 5 Miles,” and “Curves & Hills.”

All of the messages highlighted the need for cautious driving through the section of the two-lane highway, which eventually widens farther south to four lanes.  Some passersby responded by honking their horns or waving at the demonstrators. Continue reading

Protesters Call for More Safety along U.S. 95


Group had sued ITD in 2003 over planned re-routing of vital north-south artery.

A group of more than a dozen members and supporters of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition waved picket signs Friday along U.S. Highway 95 in southern Moscow, demanding safety improvements on a seven-mile stretch of the roadway that has yet to be improved.

The bright red signs carried messages like “Danger Ahead,” “Go Slow,” “Live for Holidays,” and “U.S. 95 Unsafe.”  A news release from the coalition stated that the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has shirked its duty by not taking safety measures on the highway over the decade it has taken to complete an environmental impact statement.

“While ITD proclaims ‘safety’ as its highway realignment project objective, its decades-long neglect of public well-being on current U.S. Highway 95 indicates otherwise,” according to the news release.

The same group sued the transportation department in 2003, citing environmental and safety concerns over the [ITD] preferred route of the highway along the western flank of Paradise Ridge.  A federal judge granted an injunction and ordered the department to complete a full environmental impact statement, while design and construction on the rest of the highway continued from Thorn Creek Road to the top of the Lewiston Hill.  That work finished in 2007.

Demonstration organizer Mary Ullrich, a resident of Paradise Ridge, said the coalition is working to encourage the transportation department to immediately make one of the most dangerous stretches of Idaho highway safer.  She took exception to those who have villainized the group for blocking a new, four-lane, divided highway in the first place. Continue reading

Highway 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration


Winter Highway 95 2

PRDC Safety Petition

To enhance safety on a dangerous stretch of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow, Idaho, Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) has initiated a petition that urges the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) to immediately implement site-specific measures to mitigate unsafe highway conditions.  The scene of numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, the Reisenauer Hill area of Highway 95 poses serious threats to travelers during inclement and winter weather.  For a third time in a dozen years, American taxpayers are requesting that ITD lower and seek enforcement of the speed limit around Reisenauer Hill, erect reduced speed limit warning signs with weather-activated, flashing lights at both approaches to the hill, and install rumble strips in the center and fog lines, and in the traffic lanes before the warning signs, on this section of Highway 95.  Establishing these interim safety measures until and during construction of the new highway could help save lives and property.  PRDC encourages all citizens to read the full text of the petition on the PRDC and MoveOn websites, and sign it soon.  Please also circulate the petition to your colleagues and group members for signatures by 11 pm on Wednesday, December 17.

Petition to the Idaho Transportation Department Requesting Immediate, Site-Specific Actions to Mitigate Dangerous Conditions on Reisenauer Hill (November 28, 2014 Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition)

Highway Safety Demonstration

On Thursday, December 18, PRDC will deliver this petition to the Idaho Transportation Department in Lewiston, and send it via overnight mail to ITD Director Brian Ness and the Federal Highway Administration, both in Boise.  Between 1:30 and 4:00 pm on December 19, regional residents and PRDC members will conduct a Highway 95 roadside demonstration south of Palouse River Drive in Moscow.  Participants will highlight Highway 95 safety: citizen and PRDC concerns about it, appropriate interim measures to improve it, and recommended re-routing options that could restore it.  While ITD proclaims “safety” as its highway realignment project objective, its decades-long neglect of public well-being on current U.S. Highway 95 indicates otherwise. Continue reading

Letter: Sign the Petition


Tim Hatten, Moscow

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 12/16/14

There’s been a lot of controversy over efforts to widen and improve the safety of U.S. Highway 95 from Thorn Creek Road to Moscow.  Everybody wants to see this stretch of road improved, but the best means for doing so are contentious and under much debate.  Lost in this debate, and in the lengthy process to reach a decision on the re-routing of the highway, is the resounding fact that there still remain safety concerns for the current route.  Specifically, the Reisenauer Hill area, scene of numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, is as dangerous as ever, and poses a threat to the unwary winter traveler.

To help rectify this situation, a petition has been drafted asking the Idaho Transportation Department to implement the following tasks:

1. Immediately lower and seek enforcement of the posted speed limit on Reisenauer Hill.

2. Erect warning signs with the reduced speed limit and weather-activated, flashing, yellow lights on both approaches to this hill.

3. Install rumble strips both in the center line and in the fog lines of this section of road.

4. Place rumble strips in the pavement lane of travel immediately prior to the reduced speed limit signs.

I believe that addressing these tasks could help save lives, and I urge all to sign the petition.  The last day to sign is December 17, so act now.  It can be found at the following link: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/petition-to-the-idaho-1.