COUNCIL, Idaho -- After 15 years of talk, a highway project that would bypass a small Idaho town looks like it's going to happen. Some say it's for the better; others, for the worse.
In 1998, the Idaho Transportation Department says an alternate route for U.S. Highway 95 was discussed. In 2004, the project plan was approved, but budget constraints forced the project to stop.
"It just kind of fell through. Funding went elsewhere. It went on the back burner and now it's back," Council Mayor Bruce Gardner, a local veterinarian, said.
Now, funding is secured and ITD plans to start construction in late 2015 with completion in fall 2016. A final public hearing for the design phase is scheduled for Wednesday, February 27, for stakeholders to offer any concerns or suggestions.
"I imagine everyone will be somewhat impacted by it," Adams County Record Publisher and Owner Lyle Sall (and downtown property owner) said. "It's a major part of any kind of business is how much traffic you get."
Sall says he has a lot of concerns about the current Highway 95 bypass plan and has brought them forward. One of the issues, Sall says, is some restaurant and shop owners rely on the pass-through traffic to stay in business.
"We have a restroom over [in the park] that a lot of people stop for a rest stop and let their dog out, run around, look at the square and come out and buy something, so we're going to lose that," Sall said. "We would hope for a truck route, but it looks like we're going to get bypassed entirely. I think these small towns struggle now to be economically viable, and I'm afraid that's going to really be a problem for this little town."
Mayor Gardner also owns a local business on Highway 95 and supports the one-mile long alternate route. He also believes the current design will still make it easy enough to get into town for those that want to.
"It cuts out literally at one end of the main part of town and comes back in just right at the other end. So actually down town is visible from both end points of the alternate," Gardner said.
Gardner also believes the project is worthwhile because of safety elements it will add, such as sidewalks. The new route would also take highway traffic away from the town's schools.
"Our biggest concern is obviously the heavy truck traffic that comes through. There's a lot of wear and tear on the pavement, and it's a safety issue," Gardner said.
While some adjustments might be made after the final public hearing, the Idaho Transportation Department says that in some capacity, this project will happen.
If you'd like to comment on the design, the public meeting is Wednesday night from 4 to 7 p.m. at Council High School. Comments to ITD can also be made via email.
More information from ITD can be found here.