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U.S. 95 topic of meeting with ITD

Weiser Signal American of Weiser, Idaho

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Local officials asked state to look at safety issues on road

Idaho Transportation Department officials will be in Weiser this Thursday, Nov. 5, to talk with local officials about safety issues on U.S. Highway 95.

It's a return visit for ITD District 3 engineer Amy Revis, who spent about 90 minutes at the Vendome on Aug. 18 listening to concerns about the 12-mile stretch of highway between Weiser and Payette.

ITD spokesperson Jennifer Gonzalez said the meeting is a followup to the August information-gathering meeting on U.S. 95 that was requested by District 9 Rep. Ryan Kerby.

"As promised, ITD will return with some data/evaluations/research that was requested about that corridor," she said in an email.

Kerby, a Republican from New Plymouth, has pushed ITD to look at safety issues on U.S. Highway 95 between Weiser and Payette. He said he wants passing lanes and turnouts for slow vehicles on the highway, which is within his legislative district.

Washington County Commissioner Tom Anderson said he hopes ITD officials have looked at the highway since August and come to the same conclusion that he and others have — that there are serious safety issues.

He said he could fill the Vendome with people who have had "near misses" on that stretch of highway.

Right now, there are no improvements scheduled for U.S. 95 between Weiser and Payette and the earliest any major construction could be done would be 2020. The ITD has not programmed any work on U.S. 95 into the five-year road improvement plan.

Anderson said he would like to see ITD bump up the highway to a priority and get improvements on the ITD's schedule.

In the short-term, the speed limit could be lowered from 65 miles per hour, where it is now. There could be no passing lanes painted on the highway and some turnouts. It only takes one car going 50 mph or 55 mph to slow traffic down and then someone wants to pass.

"There are very few places that are safe to pass," Anderson said.

In August, city and county officials along with representatives from law enforcement and the Weiser School District, met with ITD officials and recited a list of safety concerns.

The highway, which runs the length of Idaho and is a major road connecting Canada to Mexico, is getting busier through Weiser as ITD tries to encourage more use of U.S. 95 as a route to Cascade and McCall to take some of the traffic pressure off congested Highway 55.

A chief complaint about U.S. 95 between Weiser and Payette is the absence of passing lanes. There are no turnouts that would allow slow-moving farm equipment in the highly agricultural area to get off the road.

The highway surface has problem areas. There are ruts in the highway that fill up with water when it's raining and can cause hydroplaning. In the winter, water in the ruts freezes, creating dangerous driving conditions, officials said.

In addition to passing lanes, the highway should have turn lanes at busy intersections such as at Crystal Lane so a driver doesn't have to block the highway waiting to turn. The highway also lacks room on the shoulders so motorists can pull off out of traffic.

Rep. Kerby has noted that the highway to the north and south of Weiser has been upgraded over the years, but nothing's been done between Payette and Weiser.

Weiser Mayor Diana Thomas said on Tuesday that ITD officials have not given her a heads-up on what will be shared at the meeting on Nov. 5.

She has previously said that 65 miles an hour is too fast on the stretch of U.S. 95 between Weiser and Payette, particularly during certain times of the year like hunting season or harvest season.

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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