BOISE, Idaho — As many people hit the road to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones -- or just get away for a long weekend -- here's a reminder: because of a recent rockslide near Smiths Ferry, Highway 55 will remain closed through at least Monday, November 29.
“It's an inconvenience for travelers from the valley to come up to Cascade or McCall,” said Patrick Willis, the owner of Cougar Mountain Lodge.
Willis told KTVB it's a lot more than just an inconvenience for the people who live or work in the area, like himself. To get to Smiths Ferry from Cascade, he has to go north on 55 instead of south, then head down U.S. 95 from New Meadows toward the Treasure Valley before heading back up 55 to Smiths Ferry.
“For me to come to work, it adds 200 miles onto my commute that would normally be 17 miles,” Willis said.
The closure starts right before northbound traffic on 55 reaches Cougar Mountain Lodge and a neighboring business, Clear Creek Station.
“It's basically shut our businesses down.” Willis said.
The rockslide shut down Highway 55 near Smiths Ferry on Nov. 18, almost a week ago. Idaho Transportation Department's Jake Melder told KTVB there are several steps that need to be completed before ITD can reopen that stretch of the highway.
“We need to first fortify the slide area. We're building a temporary wall to do that so that the slide doesn’t move through the winter. Then we're going to be constructing a new roadway around the slide area and also remove some of the material on top of the slide to make sure it's more safe,” Melder said.
As crews work, Willis said, he would like to see an additional route open, but Melder said right now, U.S. 95 is the best option and is most cost-effective.
“The geography in that area is not conducive to easily construct roadways, particularly roadways of a highway design to handle the traffic we see on the highway,” Melder said. “We're doing our best to clear it up as soon as possible to restore those services, and we just appreciate everyone's understanding and patience.”
Cougar Mountain Lodge will be open for limited hours this weekend for anyone who's headed in that direction to get a Christmas tree.
Melder recommends anyone getting ready to hit the roads check road condition reports from Idaho 511.
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