Construction on I-86 | Courtesy of the Idaho Transportation Department
POCATELLO — Construction on the interstate interchange system overhaul in the Pocatello/Chubbuck area is on track to be completed sometime in the summer of 2025.
“We’ve done a lot of work,” said Justin Smith, spokesperson for the Idaho Transportation Department. “There’s been a lot of earth moved around.”
Smith said the north to westbound lane, which splits off off Interstate-15 merges onto Interstate-86 going towards American Falls, has been lowered to prepare for the northbound bridge to go over it.
Hired by ITD, Sundt-Cannon has employees working day and night to complete the project. Company officials hope to have workers pouring concrete for the northbound bridge sometime this week.
The Chubbuck Road overpass has been torn up and removed since August 2022, and now, “we are starting work on walls and excavation for that to become an underpass,” Smith said.
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While progress has been made, there’s still much work to be completed.
The northbound bridge is the first of four major bridges that will be built for the new system interchange. These four bridges will include two going north on I-15 and two going south on I-15. There are also the two bridges being constructed over Chubbuck road, which aren’t considered major bridges.
Sundt-Cannon hopes to pour cement for the northbound bridge sometime this week. | Courtesy of the Idaho Transportation Department
Once the project is complete, the left-hand exit from I-15 to I-86 we be eliminated. In its place will be a new collector distributor ramp, where northbound travelers merge with Pocatello Creek Road traffic and then enter I-86 when the ramp turns left. Drivers travelling on Pocatello Creek Road will have the option to exit right and continue north on I-15.
People travelling east on I-86 will pass under newly constructed bridges on I-15 and then merge with with the interstate on the right.
Once the new Chubbuck Road underpass is completed, ITD officials say biking and pedestrian access will be improved. Smith said work on Chubbuck Road will continue up until the end of the project.
“A lot of work has been done and a lot of work needs to be done,” Smith said. “We’re still building bridges, we’re pouring concrete, we’re moving dirt, we’re building up lanes and we’re doing piledriving. So there’s all kinds of different aspects going on all throughout the project site.”
The existing bridges on I-15 were constructed in the 1960s. ITD knew the bridges would have to be replaced, and decided they would also redesign the system interchange to make it safer for travellers.
“Nobody really heading northbound onto the interstate wants to cross over two lanes of traffic to the head towards Chubbuck,” Smith said. “So there were some safety improvements that we could put in to meet driver expectations so that the interchange functions better.”
The speed limit has been reduced to 55 mph for the duration of the system interchange project. Smith said Idaho State Police have increased their patrols on that stretch of interstate to deter people from speeding through the construction zone.
“When people are speeding, they tend to look and say, ‘Well, I don’t see any construction yet so I can just do what I feel like doing’ and the problem is we have (vehicles) entering and leaving the interstate to get into the work area,” Smith said.
Officials worked hard to change the speed limit only where it’s necessary, he said. If someone is speeding through the area, they may not react quickly enough to avoid a collision in case of slowing traffic.
“It’s really important that people follow those speed limit signs and be proactive,” Smith said.
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