The ribbon cutting Friday morning for the 17th Street and Woodruff Avenue intersection. | Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS — There has been what seems like a sea of orange construction cones across Idaho Falls this past summer, but on Friday morning, the city celebrated the reopening of a major intersection that has been in the works for the past six months.
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The city of Idaho Falls, joined by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce and various contractors, held a ribbon cutting for the 17th Street and Woodruff Avenue intersection.
“Some people might think it’s silly to have a big celebration about a roadway, but these things have been major congestion points. Dedicated ‘rights’ and dedicated ‘lefts’ make a huge difference in traffic flow. We are excited about it,” Mayor Rebecca Casper told EastIdahoNews.com.
The city has been behind at least 28 projects recently. Some construction, like road work on Broadway Street and Yellowstone Highway, however, has not been a city project and is being handled by the Idaho Transportation Department.
Casper said the city projects have included resurfacing and improving sidewalks that crumbled and big projects like the 17th Street and Woodruff Avenue intersection.
The improvements to the intersection included an additional left turn lane and a dedicated right turn lane on each intersection approach. There were updates to waterlines, curb, gutter, landscaping and the traffic signal.
Part of what the new intersection looks like. | Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com
Concrete medians were also added to restrict left turns and reduce traffic accidents. Idaho Falls Power removed power poles and ran the existing fiber and power lines underground, a news release from the city said.
“It’s very, very important to us as a community, and even though we only represent the smallest fraction of the residents from this infrastructure improvement, it’s important that we celebrate it. The reality is this is foundational. An intersection is, philosophically speaking, where things come together,” Casper said.
Planning for the project began years ago, by meeting with nearby property owners dating back to 2018. Interestingly, Idaho Falls Public Works originally planned to start the work in Spring 2022 but didn’t receive bids, so the project start date was pushed back to April 2023.
City officials say the improvements to the 17th and Woodruff intersection were necessary due to population growth resulting in the intersection operating at over-capacity levels during peak hours, with motorists experiencing delays of more than 1.5 minutes.
Forecasted traffic flow data showed a 30 percent increase in demand, resulting in a 2.5 to 4-minute delay by the year 2040 without intersection improvements, a news release said.
“These roads were built, and these arterial roadways were laid out and developed for the needs of the time. The need of the time, you know, 50 years years ago was not as great as the need is now, and so when we are able to put in small things like a dedicated right turn lane, it allows traffic to flow better,” Casper said. “It allows us to more easily accommodate the people who live here, and we do have more people using our roadways than ever before.”
To date, the total cost of the project approaches $7 million. Federal funding was used to complete this project.
If you want to learn more about current construction projects, there is an interactive construction map on the city’s website.
The ribbon cutting event Friday morning. | Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com
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