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Work will finally begin on the long awaited Allen Bridge, located just west of Steel & Ranch. The project has been in the planning and designing stage for six years. One of the factors in the lengthy time frame was having to secure the required environmental approval due to the fact there are anadromous fish in the waters flowing underneath the bridge.

Gerald Flatz of the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council (LHTAC) told the Lemhi County Commissioners January 26 that the final paperwork will be submitted to the Idaho Transportation Department which will then advertise the project and conduct the bid opening. The Allen Bridge is federally funded. LHTAC is an entity created 20 years ago to help counties navigate through the many requirements connected to federally funded projects.

Flatz said he will now figure out the total project cost. Federal Highways will pay 92.66 percent of the total, the county pays 7.34 percent. ITD will be writing the final state/local agreement which should only take a few weeks.

The Paragon Consulting, Inc. fee for the project was $320,000. Flatz explained that at first it was thought the bridge could be repaired and plans were formulated for that expectation. Then it was decided the bridge would have to be replaced. The false start added to the cost. Another element in the consulting fee is that small bridges take a larger percentage due to having to go through all the same federal hoops as larger structures.

The bridge construction estimate is $603,000. He said that figure is based on costs for federal aid projects. Included in the price breakdown is a $30,000 cushion in the event of change orders, a construction engineering consultant and administration costs. The total project cost is estimated at approximately $1.15 million. Of that Federal Highways pays a little over a million and the county pays $84,000. Thirty-three thousand has already been paid by the county leaving a balance of $51,000. When that bill is paid and an agreement signed, ITD will advertise the project. The average time from advertising to project award is 90 days which, if all goes smoothly, means a project start date sometime in mid-Summer of this year.

Everyone agreed it will be good to get the long needed bridge replacement underway. Road and Bridge Superintendent Kerrie Cheney said the actual bridge installation won’t take long however the abutment work will last a few weeks. The downside is the bridge work is going to be inconvenient for Allen Bridge users who will have to commute by way of Geertson Creek. Flatz said a temporary bridge was considered but the expense was prohibitive as well as the probability of obtaining the necessary property rights of way.

Earlier in the meeting Cheney and Road Access Specialist Jay Davis recommended a letter writing campaign be initiated in support of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Community Self Determination Act. They said Road and Bridge crews as well as some members of the public are writing to Idaho’s Congressional delegation and they encouraged the commissioners to join the effort.

The legislation also known as the Craig/Wyden Bill was put in place in 2000 as a way to aid counties containing large tracts of nontaxable federal land. Those counties, including Lemhi, formerly relied on monies generated by timber sales to make up for their limited tax base. The bill had an original six year life span and has been a yearly Congressional argument ever since the 2006 expiration date. Continued existence of the SRS, which funds county road and bridge departments as well as local schools, is now teetering again. In this county the funding amounts to nearly a quarter of a million dollars which is a good deal less than what timber sale revenues used to be but a very much needed revenue stream.

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