Friday, April 12, 2024
54.0°F

ITD halts plans to reconfigure stretch of Highway 54

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | March 30, 2024 1:00 AM

The Idaho Transportation Department has halted plans to reconfigure a 3.5-mile stretch of the four-lane section of Highway 54 from Athol to Farragut State Park into a two-lane facility with a continuous left center turn lane.

Heather McDaniel, public information officer for ITD District 1, said the project came about in response to development in the area and for the safety of turning traffic.

“A lot of people are trying to get on and off the highway through that section,” she said.

The project would also have provided a “low-cost alternative” to maximize the service life of the existing pavement by allowing additional shoulder space through the reduction in the 3.5-mile stretch of highway.

ITD had reportedly communicated with “key stakeholders,” including the city of Bayview and with Farragut State Park, about the project.

“Everyone was on board, but of course, things change over time,” McDaniel said.

Feedback from community members who oppose the project caused ITD to pump the brakes.

“The traffic to Farragut State Park, one of Idaho’s premiere parks, is only going to increase and traffic to Bayview, also one of Idaho’s primary attractions, will only increase also,” Bayview resident Gary MacDonald wrote in a public Facebook post, which gained traction with other residents. “As partners in providing a nice outdoor experience, we need to protect the good roadway access that we enjoy. Two lanes is absolutely not going to help.”

McDaniel said recent traffic data supports the highway’s ability to accommodate current volumes as a two-lane road without a reduction in service.

This summer, ITD will move ahead with plans to sealcoat the driving surface of State Highway 54. When the work is completed, the lanes will remain striped in their current configuration as “a four-lane facility with no turn lane and minimal shoulder,” McDaniel said.

In the future, McDaniel said, the need for reconstruction or expansion of this section of highway will be weighed against the needs of other roadways across the district and considered based on the financial and operational resources available.