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Garwood to Sagle

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Freeway traffic on a Farm-to-Market road triggers a series of meetings on improvements to Hwy. 95

Willie Nelson sang about being “On The Road Again.” Bob Dylan sang he was “travelin’ down that long lonesome highway.” There was a popular movies series in the 50’s, “The Road To (Many Places),” starring Hope and Crosby. As popular culture suggests, Americans like to travel and they need their roads.
    The process of filling that need, however, does not necessarily create a happy ending for everyone involved. That’s been made clear in workshops about the new Garwood to Sagle section of Highway 95 in North Idaho.
    During the month of July, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) held three workshops for the proposal. One covered Garwood to the county line. One was for the Granite to Cocolalla area and one for the Sagle area.
    Each workshop was opened with an overview of why ITD feels the road needs to be improved. A brief listing includes an increase in traffic and an increase in growth which creates intersections, some controlled and some not. They also covered what they are proposing for an improved road.
    ITD would like to see a freeway- type road with interchanges rather than intersections. Interchanges have an overpass with on ramps and off ramps to the roads that are crossing. An intersection is flat and the traffic from both roads crosses at the same grade.
    Currently the highway right of way on most of 95 is 200 feet wide. With a freeway-style road it would need to be 240 feet wide. This allows for four lanes of traffic and a meridian to separate the north and south lanes. It would give room for a run-off on each side before traffic came in contact with trees and other obstacles. It would also allow for utility easements on each side along with possible pedestrian and bike paths.
    Each of the current alternatives will require an Environmental Impact Statement, as well as input from the public.
    In each of the meetings two alternatives were put on the table for each area. The idea was for people to look at each and give their opinion. The alternatives are not final decisions, but instead give an idea of where to put the road.
    As people studied the alternatives they were asked to make suggestions. Sometimes one alternative was chosen over the other, and sometimes the choice was a combination of both. At nearly every workshop another alternative was proposed by some of the attendees—to do nothing at all or to simply widen the existing road without making a super freeway.
    The discussions were sometimes lively and always featured a lot of concern for the property owners who would be affected by the new road.
    I could understand the concern. When I first learned of this project there were several alternatives presented. Those, along with the present ones, were just lines on a map. One of those lines that represented a possible alternative, however, ran right through my property. I definitely feel the road needs to be improved, but not by going through my place. As the feasibility of the alternatives were studied that possibility seems have been dropped, but it put another perspective on the whole improvement for me.
    The road still needs to be improved, in my opinion, but the concern for farmland, wetlands and historical structures is understandable. The farmlands represent a livelihood for families as well as a product that we need. The wetlands are necessary for the cleaning of our environment as well as for habitat for wildlife. The historical structures can be the foundation of the American culture we have be developing for the last 200-plus years. Of the three, wetlands can be mitigated and new areas can be created to replace any that may be destroyed.
    Most of us moved to this part of the country for the pristine mountains and valleys. Many of those are now becoming filled with people—people who need good roads in order to travel safely. Highway 95 from Garwood to Sagle is currently used as a farm to market road as well as an international corridor; there is not another north-south route without going West to Highway 31.
    That is a problem, as a state trooper who attended the meetings said. “We have super freeway traffic on a two- lane road.”
    As a regular commuter on this section of 95 I agree, plus I see an increase in traffic each year.
    Because the traffic is here, everyone who lives in the area needs to take some responsibility for it. Find out where the current plans are and how they affect you. Contact the ITD office in Coeur d’Alene at 208-765-3236 or 208-263-6712 in Sandpoint, and get familiar with the maps. Maps can also be viewed on the Internet at www.US95Garwood.com. This road will be with us for a long time. Decide what needs to be given up for the good of the area.
    I felt a real lump in my gut when I saw that line through my property. It let me know how difficult this kind of decision is. I still see the need, but I’m glad it won’t be in my back yard.
    Dylan can’t travel down that Long Lonesome Road anymore between Garwood and Sagle. Let’s make sure whatever improvements we make to the road are the best it can be for all of us.   

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

Idaho, Sagle, roads, Hwy 95, Garwood

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