[Vision2020] Final EIS for Highway 95 released

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Thu Aug 20 04:08:31 PDT 2015

As a preface . . .

US-95 Realignment Panel
University of Idaho College of Law Courtroom (February 25, 2013)

Courtesy of today's (August 20, 2015) Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Final EIS for Highway 95 released
Opposition group says it still doesn't support highway officials' Paradise Ridge preference
Idaho transportation officials have released the Final Environmental Impact Statement and other reports related to the planned widening and realignment of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow to Thorncreek Road - thousands of pages of research, information and public opinions.
State and federal transportation officials have expressed preference among the three final choices for realignment of this section of Highway 95. The Idaho Transportation Department and Federal Highway Administration prefer the easternmost, or E-2 route, over Paradise Ridge near an untouched area of the ancient Palouse Prairie.
People concerned about its potential environmental effects would like officials to choose instead the more central or C-3 route just east of the current highway.
A third option is W-4, which loops out to the west. It was slightly modified, but remains the most unlikely of these final alternatives.
"A few of our board members have read it," said Al Poplawsky of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition about the FEIS. "It's the same old E-2 alternative. It doesn't meet with our approval."
The group has an attorney should they opt to take legal action based on the latest project documents, specifically the FEIS, Poplawsky said.
"It will destroy the rest of our natural heritage if we impact the prairie," he said.
He and other members of the coalition said E-2 will allow invasive weeds to overtake native varieties there.
In 2003, the coalition and other groups successfully argued the ITD failed to adequately examine the environmental effects of its plans for Highway 95, and a judge ordered a full environmental impact statement process be completed.
No matter what route it ultimately takes, the work would increase to four lanes the final six-mile stretch of two-lane road on Highway 95 between Moscow and Lewiston.
With four lanes, expanded shoulder space and consistent ability to pass slow-moving vehicles, safety would be improved with any of three final choices, according to the ITD.
But each of these routes come with its own unique form of improvement. ITD and FHWA have determined that E-2 would be safest overall, but some who want to see C-3 chosen contend not all seasonal conditions are being taken into consideration. One is that there would be an increase in the number of vehicle collisions with big game animals, Poplawsky said.
The coalition and some government agencies, including Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said during earlier planning phases they preferred C-3 to protect the prairie's own varieties of vegetation and its wildlife inhabitants.
The statement and all technical reports are posted at http://us95thorncreek.com/. Printed copies of the statement are available at several locations.
Officials with the FHWA will issue a Record of Decision for the project after the review is finished, unless legal action is initiated by Sept. 14. The 30-day review period started Aug. 14.
ITD's previous goal was to start construction in 2017 and have the work completed in a couple of years.
There is no current project timeline, however.


Pictured are the three final alternatives for the planned improvement and realignment of U.S. Highway 95 between Moscow and Thorncreek Road. State and federal officials have released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project.



Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" 
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

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