SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and other officials took part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Sand Creek Byway that will route high-speed traffic away from downtown Sandpoint in northern Idaho.
“Congratulations,” Otter told about 500 people who attended the ceremony Oct. 30 to mark the start of construction for the highway project along the shore of Lake Pend Oreille. “The perseverance you’ve demonstrated has been awesome.”
The $70 million byway on U.S. 95 is part of a series of huge construction projects in northern Idaho’s lake country that are designed to improve traffic safety in the tourist region.
Some groups fought the byway because of environmental concerns and fears that it would be a blight on Sandpoint’s scenic waterfront.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received the initial permit application in May 2004. After being substantially revised, the project was approved late last year. The permit includes requirements for a variety of construction devices and techniques to prevent erosion into Sand Creek and Lake Pend Oreille.
“We all know there are battle scars on this project,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported. “But we have now reached a conclusion and people up and down Idaho are coming together.”
U.S. 95 is the main north-south highway in Idaho. It cuts through the middle of Sandpoint, creating big traffic jams for much of the year through a series of 90-degree turns.
The 2.1-mi. (3.4 km) project includes a new bridge that will cross Sand Creek. The byway will follow railroad tracks along the east side of the creek, reconnecting with the existing U.S. 95/U.S. 2 highway just north of an existing bridge over the creek.
“My mother always said, ’Good things come to those who wait,’” said Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Risch. “The only downside is that someday somebody will put together the cost of waiting.”