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Central Idaho highway expansion on hold

KETCHUM – A lack of federal money means work on an expansion project on a 27-mile stretch of State Highway 75 in central Idaho through the resort area of Ketchum probably will be delayed indefinitely, the Idaho Transportation Department says.

The project has nine parts, and the agency has money to complete two parts and some of a third, spokesman Nathan Jerke told the Idaho Mountain Express (http://bit.ly/nLdFF3).

“The project’s not dead, it’s just in a waiting cycle,” Jerke said. “The need’s not dead, and we plan to get back to it someday, but when that someday is, is the big question mark.”

He said that the estimated cost of the entire project is $250 million, with $29 million having been spent so far. He said $27 million of that is federal money, while the remaining $2 million comes from state matching funds.

The agency anticipates a 30 percent cut in federal funding, possibly as early as October, which would be about $92 million.

“It’s still in the forecasting state, but that’s kind of what is going around the office,” Jerke said.

Idaho lawmakers approved a $738.6 million budget for the department for fiscal 2012, which starts in October. That includes $306.9 million in federal funding for highway construction.

The expansion project has been in the planning stages for more than a decade and includes the highway from south of Bellevue to north of Ketchum. In 2008, an environmental impact statement divided the project into nine parts.

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