Jerome and Twin Falls sign Third Crossing Joint Powers Agreement

Commissioners from Jerome and Twin Falls County, along with members of the Filer and Jerome Highway Districts, signed the agreement.
Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 9:40 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —Commissioners from Jerome and Twin Falls County entered into a partnership Thursday to help address the growing traffic congestion between the two communities.

The amount of vehicles crossing the Perrine bridge every day between the two communities has grown over the years. The Idaho Department of Transportation estimates the annual daily average to be between 20,000 to 30,000 vehicles

“A lot of people are crossing that (Perrine Bridge). A lot of people are moving into the state. Our state is one of the biggest states for people moving in right now,” said Jerome County commissioner Ben Crouch.

The Jerome County commissioner also said there are a lot of people who commute between Jerome and Twin Falls County for work.

Idaho Department of Transportation District 4 engineer Jesse Barrus said if an accident or crash happens on the bridge it plugs things up and can back up traffic all the way to the interstate. He also said truck traffic is what causes things to become congested and slow down the most, but the problem isn’t necessarily the bridge itself.

“The bridge flows the traffic just fine. It’s when you start to get to the signal. The signals don’t flow as efficiently,” Barrus said. " So as the signals start to plug up then you will start to see traffic back up on the bridge and beyond.”

Barrus said his department recently finished up an Origin-Destination Study that looked at where cars are coming from and where their destination is. The study also examined if a bridge were to be added along the rim somewhere how would that alleviate traffic congestion on main thoroughfares like the Perrine Bridge and Blue Lakes Boulevard.

Twin Falls County commissioner Brent Reinke said the amount of truck traffic that happens along the south side of the bridge is significant because of the amount of commerce that happens in that area.

The Origin-Destination Study presented five different possibilities for an additional third crossing over the Snake River, Crouch said some of them were basically “what-if” scenarios.

Barrus said ITD is now preparing to put together a more comprehensive study. The $4 million Environmental Linkage Study, funded by the state, will look at everything from widening the bridge to putting in a new bridge by the Hansen or the Perrine Bridge.

“We look at that and go through a series of analyses, meaning some environmental analysis, cost analysis, feasibility analysis,” said Barrus. “And we start to narrow those options down.”

To help advocate on behalf of the project, commissioners from Jerome and Twin Falls County, along with members of the Filer and Jerome Highway Districts, signed a Joint Powers Agreement Thursday afternoon in front of a crowd at the visitors center.

“It’s important from the standpoint to be able to work with our stakeholders throughout our counties in the Magic Valley, and to be able to work with ITD as we move forward on this project,” said Reinke. “It is easier when you have a smaller working group, and then we can gather information from our stakeholders and take it to these meetings with ITD

Barrus said the Joint Powers Agreement also creates opportunities for them to go out and solicit some federal money or grants.

The study might take anywhere from 18 months to two years to complete, said Barrus, and when it is hopefully there will be a feasible option for a third crossing between the two counties.

“The other thing that is important is the Perrine Bridge is 44 years old, and the Hansen Bridge is 55 years old,” said Reinke. “So when you start looking at the long-range planning of this kind of an effort it needs to happen and it needs to get started now.”

Barrus said right now ITD is in the process of hiring a consulting firm to conduct the study, and once the project is complete the next step will be a full-on Environmental Impact Study.

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