Road projects on U.S. 55 lead to more traffic on U.S. 95


A replacement of the Little Goose Creek bridge on SH55 near New Meadows, along with ongoing repairs between Boise and McCall, travelers to McCall will see slow downs with either route they choose. Photo by Nancy Grindstaff
By: 
Philip A. Janquart
Over the last couple of years, road work on Highway 55 has affected traffic flow on Highway 95, and it doesn’t look like there will be any relief in the near future.
 The Idaho Transportation Department recently released a list of future projects on Highway 55 that extend well into 2026. 
 “Idaho drivers are urged to plan ahead when traveling north of Eagle this summer as the ITD is advancing several projects along State Highway 55,” according to a press release issued on Monday. “These projects include lane closures and reduced speeds in various locations between Eagle and New Meadows. Each of these projects is intended to improve traffic flow and safety along this regional route,” said District 3 Engineer Jason Brinkman.
 That translates into increased traffic along the Payette/New Meadows corridor, the only other route for motorists wanting to head north.
 “Actually, ever since they had to shut down when they were working on Highway 55 a year or a couple years ago, I think people kind of figured out that it’s a better road to come this way, so the traffic on 95 has increased tremendously the last couple years, and with them doing all that work, it’s just going to get worse,” Washington County Sheriff Matt Thomas told the Signal American on Monday.
 Traffic on Highway 95 can be bad enough on an average day, much less on holidays, like Memorial Day when, after a long winter, people take advantage of the year’s first opportunity to have some fun outdoors.
 The traffic between Payette and Weiser is so thick at times that it makes patrolling difficult for Sheriff’s deputies, according to Thomas.
 “It’s hard for us to do, just because the traffic is so heavy,” he said. “It makes it hard to get turned around on vehicles, catch up to them, and get them stopped. We get people doing 90 to 100 (mph) quite often, but it’s usually north of Weiser.”
 Some of the high speeds may be attributed to motorists who are frustrated by those who drive well under the speed limit on a two-lane road with a 65-mile per hour posted speed limit. Add farming equipment to the equation and you have the perfect storm for erratic and dangerous driving behaviors.
 “Just the traffic between Weiser and Payette is so heavy, you are kind of stuck going the speed the person in front of you is going. I mean, if someone is going under the speed limit, and it’s not safe to pass, they (other drivers) kind of do it [anyway],” Thomas said. “People are in a hurry to get places and it’s not worth being in a hurry because you are going to hurt yourself or hurt someone else. Wherever they are headed, it’s still going to be there when they get there. It’s not going anywhere.”
 The increased traffic means motorists need to drive defensively.
 There are seven separate projects scheduled between 2024 and 2026, including the Smiths Ferry to New Meadows chip seal (July 2024 to fall 2024), the Banks-Lowman intersection (summer 2024), where an interim traffic signal will be installed until a permanent one can be constructed, and The Rainbow Bridge project (2024-2026), which aims to build a new bridge over the North Fork of the Payette River in Valley County. Currently, ITD is conducting soil and rock sampling in the area. Drivers can expect 15-minute delays on weekdays beginning this month.
 Another project includes the Fleming Bridge replacement (2024-2025) project. The bridge is located about four miles south of Banks, with the highway reduced to one lane and comes with speed reductions.
 All of it means more traffic for Highway 95.
 “All I can say is, be careful on 95,” Thomas said. “Pay attention to your driving, stay off your cell phone, and just be safe.”
 

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Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
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