WOOD RIVER VALLEY, Idaho (Press Release) - Many modern transportation features are standard and unremarkable. The new Big Wood River Bridge, along Idaho 75 south of Ketchum, will not be one of them.

The bridge features sound engineering, but many Blaine County residents also felt this was an opportunity to give the concrete structure a sense of place and tie it into its new community.

The result will be six pieces of metal art attached to the bridge to accent different features of the Wood River Valley. The pieces will be added to the bridge near the completion of construction scheduled in late summer 2017. Construction of the new bridge started the first week in January.

While completing development of the bridge in 2015, the Idaho Transportation Department agreed to move forward with a plan to add artistic elements to the project with the assistance of the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee. The committee developed a Citizens Advisory Committee made up of area representatives, including those from the art community.

A field of 19 artists from five western states was narrowed to four artists to submit a detailed proposal.  The advisory committee forwarded its recommendation to the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee for approval Thursday (April 7). Artist Kay Kirkpatrick, of Seattle, was selected.

“Every artist submitted thoughtful and deeply considered proposals taking into account the surrounding area. The committee was impressed with the attention to detail in each submission,” advisory committee co-chair Claudia McCain of the Ketchum Arts Council told the transportation committee. “The new bridge will be engaging and interesting to the local driving public and to our visitors as well.  It will be a significant gateway to the north valley as well as the Sawtooth Valley.”

During her presentation to the art committee in March, Kirkpatrick said she wanted to create pieces that represent aspects of the Wood River Valley, including its nature and human interactions. Features include river currents, rock patterns, spinning skis, snow fencing, cottonwood leaves, and pine forests. The vertical elements are patterned after the trussing of the neighboring railroad bridge.

“The pieces will have a clarity and simplicity of structure in the truss-like members that will be accented by the patterning and intricate shadows of the accompanying side panels,” Kirkpatrick wrote in her project narrative. “The pieces will be visually accessible to first-time viewers but built up to create changing levels of experience for the daily commuter as well.”

The overall budget for the scoping of the artwork and fabrication was set by ITD at $100,000.

Concrete Placing Company Inc., of Boise, is the contractor for the federally-funded $5.48 million bridge replacement. The new Big Wood River Bridge will facilitate two lanes in each direction with widened shoulders and a safety median. The bridge also will be longer and taller than the current structure to make room for improve wildlife passage under the bridge.