Joint Agreement Marks Beginning of Study to Build New Snake River Bridge
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX)-A new third major crossing across the Snake River Canyon in the Magic Valley became more of a reality Thursday with the signing of a joint agreement between entities in Jerome and Twin Falls county.
Confidence and excitement could be heard in the voices of the dignitaries at the special signing of the Third Crossing Joint Powers Agreement Thursday afternoon near the Perrine Bridge. "It brings the four districts together two counties and two highway districts, to form an entity that can work very closely with the state stakeholders in our various counties and with the state and hopefully then eventually the federal government," said Twin Falls County Commissioner Brent Reinke. For many, it is only a matter of time before another structure spans the Snake River Canyon. Members of the Grater Twin Falls Area Transportation Committee (GTFATC), Jerome County Commissioners, Jerome Highway District, Twin Falls County Commissioners, and the Filer Highway District entered into the agreement to evaluate a location for another bridge.
Gerald Martens, chairman GTFATC, said the the idea of a second bridge dates back to 1977 when he was on a transportation committee that realized there was a traffic funnel in the Magic Valley, the bridge. Several years later another study was done on a replacement of the bridge, it focused to the west, and then it died, said Martens, there was a lack of community support.
According to Jesse Barrus, regional engineer for ITD, the Origin Destination Study, conducted in the last three years, looked at where people were going and how best to proceed with a new bridge. "We analyzed the traffic patterns here in the Magic Valley, and the findings that we presented to both stake holders as well as to out transportation board showed significant challenges here in Twin Falls. It showed lots of nodes through the main corridor here, Blue Lakes, plugging up in the future. They're plugging up now as you probably know, but they get worse," said Barrus.
Looking ahead, the Idaho Transportation Department will now conduct a Planning & Environmental Linkage study (PEL) with $4 million approved by the Idaho Transportation Board. It will take an in-depth look at the alternatives to a third Snake River crossing. Barrus said the first study looked at a few of the potential options for a crossing, this study will look at even more possibilities, such as widening the Perrine Bridge, adding a new structure and more. "This study will allow us to start looking at alternatives in a lot more depth," said Barrus. He said the study should cost less than the $4 million and take anywhere from 18 months to two years. "Now the fun part starts, where we get to select a location. I can't tell you how big that's gonna be in planning and zoning and everything else in this community," said Martens.