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A March 21 afternoon meeting between representatives from the Idaho Transportation Department, elected city and county officials as well as city and county department heads marked the first steps officially taken towards securing a second bridge access across the Salmon River.

Stephen Freiburger of Paragon Consulting Inc., a firm used by the county for past and present bridge projects, led the discussion by telephone. The purpose of the pre-advertised meeting was to determine if city and county officials were interested in combining forces to begin the search for a second bridge location and the funding to build one. Freiburger said a second bridge is not only vital for assuring a continued link for residents on both sides of the river it is also of extreme regional importance to the goods and services traveling Highway 93ís one and only access across the river, the beautiful but elderly Main Street Bridge.

Freiburger said the first thought of a group of city/county personnel examining the need for a second bridge while working on the countyís Transportation Plan was to apply for a Tiger Grant. The Tiger federal monies can be obtained in various ways from in-kind matches to 100 percent funded. .He estimated the cost of a bridge across the Salmon to be in the neighborhood of six and three quarters million dollars.

Tiger is a federal, highly competitive program and its acronym stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. The Tiger program was instituted in 2009 as a way of providing access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for urban and rural communities. The deadline for this yearís grant applications is April 29 which, to the gathered officials, seemed too much of a push for this year. It was however officially moved and seconded by the county commissioners that the county would join with the city in doing whatís necessary to be ready for next yearís grant cycle. Freiburger feels this community can make a good case for needing a second bridge and if by next year no Tiger funds are available he said there are a lot of other funding avenues to explore. Everyone at the table was in agreement about emergency-service needs being a priority to both the west and east sides of the river in the event of a Main Street Bridge failure.

The next big step of course is to determine a location for the second bridge and that will involve the whole community. Beginning almost immediately members of the city and county staff will start interviewing residents in the areas currently identified for possible bridge placement. As the identification progresses at least three alternative bridge locations will be created as well as other possible alignments. Once that data is gathered there will be a well-publicized informational public meeting. It was agreed clear communication with the public is the most important aspect of this proposed project and that there will be numerous opportunities for public input. Residents living anywhere near any of the possible locations will be notified about the potential project.

District Engineer Jason Minzghor, is the newly appointed head of the Idaho Transportation Departmentís District Six which includes Lemhi County. He said it will be important to stress this new bridge will not be a highway. It will be for local use only and realistically the turns will most likely be too tight for large trucks. He said in order for the state to make needed repairs to the Main Street Bridge there will have to be a detour and having a detour in place will make scheduling of repairs possibly more expedient and much easier.

Attendance at the meeting where county commissioners moved to proceed with the secondary bridge project did not include a quorum of city council membership and therefore the council members present did not have the legal authority to make a decision. It was decided that official city agreement to proceed on the bridge project will be on the councilís April 6th meeting agenda to be followed, if approved, by another joint city/county meeting where a Memorandum of Understanding will be written.

Those attending the March 21 meeting included from the county; Commissionerís Chairman John Jakovac, Commissioners Rick Snyder and Ken Miner along with County Road and Bridge Supervisor Kerrie Cheney, County Roads Specialist Jay Davis and County Clerk of the Court Terri Morton. From the city; Mayor Leo Marshall, City Councilmen Rob Jackson, Neal James and Ken Hill, City Community Project Development Coordinator Mary Cerise, City Public Works Supervisor Harry Shanafelt, City Clerk Mary Benton and City Finance Director Amy Fealko. From the Idaho Transportation Department District Six; Jason Minzghor and Jeff Eagle and, by phone, Professional Engineer Stephen Freiburger with the Paragon Consulting Corporation.

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