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A second bridge across the Salmon River has long been a priority of transportation planning for both the city and the county and joint discussions on how to agree about building such a bridge have begun. The bridge is meant to be used as a by-pass bridge in the event of an emergency, not as a replacement for the Main Street Bridge or as an alternate to US Highway 93.

Representatives from the city, county and Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) met for the first time last March. Engineer Stephen Freiberger of Paragon Consulting Inc. led that first meeting and addressed the Salmon City Council’s October 19 meeting where he presented a four phase Interagency Agreement plan for the council to consider.

He was accompanied at the council meeting by Lemhi County Interim Road and Bridge Supervisor Chris Fredrickson.

Last March, and again that evening, Freiberger stressed the importance of having a second vehicular access across the river citing international concerns. If something happened to cause a Main Street Bridge failure it would not only cut off residents from services on both sides of the river it would disrupt the main corridor of commercial traffic on Federal Highway 93 from South American to Canada. For that reason there are several entities interested in making a second route possible, the ITD being one of them.

The Main Street Bridge is scheduled for major reconstruction within the next ten years. If there were a second bridge alternative it would save the state major time and money by not having to build a temporary bridge. He foresees a three way partnership between the city, county and ITD and Freiberger thinks the Federal Highway Administration should also be asked to contribute, possibly in the form of grant monies. He cited precedence for the request by relating that when Highway 93 was being constructed through Custer County the ITD, Custer County and the Federal Highway Administration each paid one third of the costs.

He said before ITD will even consider offering any assistance for this bridge there has to first be a Joint Powers Agreement in place between the city and the county. The Interagency Agreement document he presented is a first step.

The proposed agreement outlined city and county responsibilities and divided costs on a 70 percent county 30 percent city basis. An appointed steering committee comprised of two elected city officials plus two city staff members and one elected county official along with three county staff members would meet quarterly and be in charge of guiding the direction of the project. In addition there would be agency participation in an advisory capacity however; any official decisions would be up to the city and county, not the committee.

When the council was asked for questions Councilman Rob Jackson wanted to know what the maintenance costs on a new bridge would be and Council President Jim Baker said the 70/30 percentage represents double taxation for city residents since they would also be paying into the county’s 70 percent. Baker questioned the absence of any reference to the bridge access routes on either side of the river and asked if each steering committee member had only one vote who would break any tie votes.

Freiberger said he would not attempt to address the double taxation issue and as for access route costs and future maintenance costs that will all be studied by the steering committee. In answer to who breaks a tie he said the whole purpose of the agreement is to find consensus among all parties. There was a question of the city spending taxpayer monies outside city limits and Freiberger said according to his legal team there is precedence for expending funds outside city limits when the cause is proven to be beneficial inside the city.

Freiberger asked council members to review the Interagency Agreement before the council’s next meeting. He requested that the council and staff be authorized to continue negotiations by working with the county staff on the document language issues which were identified that evening, then check those changes with the prosecuting attorney’s office.

Baker made a motion to place the agreement on the next meeting’s agenda for further discussion. The motion passed unanimously.

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