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Like a bridge…

by JOSH MCDONALD
Staff Reporter | August 4, 2022 11:18 AM

Several roads projects throughout Shoshone County will take place over the next few years as part of Gov. Brad Little’s Leading Idaho plan.

The projects are all improvements to bridges and child pedestrian paths — all of which were approved by the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council (LHTAC) and the Idaho Transportation Board.

In Shoshone County, a total of 12 bridge projects made the list (one in the city of Kellogg, two in Mullan, and nine that fall under the purview of Shoshone County). Two child pedestrian bridge projects were approved as well, including one in Pinehurst and another in Smelterville.

Gov. Little and the Idaho State Legislature approved up to $200 million for the projects from surplus funds as part of a historic transportation investment package that did not require any increase in taxes or fees.

The funds will be used to clear approximately one-third of the backlog of local bridges that are in poor condition or are load restricted.

The approved bridges were announced via a ranked list — state officials anticipate that the top 130 to 140 projects will receive the available funding.

Eight of the counties nine projects fall under that threshold, and in fact, those eight all fall within the top 69 of the list.

The projects range in location, spanning from the southern portions of the county on Potlatch Road, Moon Pass, Country Club Road near Big Creek, two near Moon Gulch, Burke Canyon, Two Mile in Osburn, and along Old River Road in the North Fork region.

Shoshone County Public Works Director Jim Cason discussed the projects specific to the county that will be completed.

“Some of them will be completed this year and then some next year,” Cason said. “Five of them are full replacement, the others will require that the county provide some sort of support.”

The full replacement bridges will be completed by agencies outside Shoshone County Public Works.

Cason also told the News-Press how the cost of replacing a bridge has increased, and looks to continue that trend.

This increase means that lesser populated, rural areas are forced to pick and choose what projects they complete — even if it means that other significant ones have to be shelved for the foreseeable future.

“This is (huge) to all of these counties and communities, what used to cost $3 million might now be $4 million,” Cason said. “We are so grateful for LHTAC and the state for pushing for this. Without them we would’ve never seen some of these projects completed.”

One of Mullan’s projects missed the funding threshold, but the project that will receive funding is the Fifth Street Bridge that crosses the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River.

Kellogg’s Bunker Avenue Bridge that also crosses the South Fork was approved.

The state’s goal is to have all projects awarded with this funding complete or in construction within the next three years, with construction on some bridges starting this year.

The bridge improvements target important crossings used to access farmland, natural resources or recreational areas — often with no reasonable alternative route or detour. At the beginning of the year, 428 local bridges were identified as being in poor condition or posted for load restrictions. The LHTAC anticipates more structures to reach this condition in the coming years. Nearly 40 percent of local Idaho bridges are more than 50 years old, the designed life span for most bridges.

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