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Hagadone News Network | August 12, 2020 1:06 AM

Blue Creek Bay bridge work causes unique traffic jams

Almost as predictable as phases of the moon, Coeur d’Alene folks driving to the Silver Valley have been able to count on backed up traffic near the Blue Creek Bay Bridge on Interstate 90.

What makes these particular traffic jams so peculiar is that only one direction of travel is affected, depending on the day of the week.

Megan Sausser, Idaho Transportation Department spokeswoman, said two things are to blame: Outdoor recreation and road construction.

Work crews began their third year of construction on the Blue Creek Bay bridge, located just west of Wolf Lodge, in late June. The project has consistently required the closure of one direction of travel, while the other is used to reroute vehicles.

“You see what we are doing on top of the bridge, but what is really taking us so long has been underneath,” Sausser said. “That is a very deep bay, so getting all of those support structures underneath the bridge in good shape is a delicate task.”

That’s forced both west and eastbound lanes to share one side of the bridge — reducing the flow of traffic to a single lane in both directions.

Even under normal circumstances, this congestion would cause delays. With people wanting to get out into the woods of Shoshone County and beyond more than ever, it creates a unique situation where vehicles can be backed up for miles going certain directions on certain days.

“We aren’t surprised by (the traffic congestion) with the seasonal traffic moving in and out of those recreational areas,” Sausser said.

On Friday afternoons, eastbound traffic can consistently be seen stacked up right before the construction zone. On Sunday mornings/early afternoons, that same congestion can be seen in the westbound lanes, as those same motorists from before head back home.

While ITD has taken several steps to streamline things, only so much can be done when two lanes of traffic turn into one.

Work crews plan to wrap up bridge repairs around Labor Day, but will then begin the process of road paving — extending the closures further.

Until the project is completely finished and/or the summer outdoor recreation season winds down, the best way to not get caught in backups is to avoid these areas during those high traffic days and times.

Drivers should download the 511 app to check for the latest conditions.