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Officials look for traffic solutions as Magic Valley expands

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 3:36 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — When the original Twin Falls bridge was built, it was the highest bridge in the world at 500 feet above the Snake River and was considered an engineering marvel for its time nearly 90 years ago.

“Building a bridge in the 1920s to accommodate what’s going on today obviously is two different worlds,” said professor emeritus of history at CSI Russell Tremayne.

Eventually, technology became too advanced for the original Twin Falls bridge, reducing an engineering marvel to a liability by the late 1960s and 1970s.

“When the freeway was built in the 1960s on the other side, that put new stress on the bridge. And that’s when they put weight limits and thinking about too much use,” said Tremayne.

This led to the Perrine Bridge being built in the mid-1970s, officially dedicated in 1976. Today this is the only way to cross the Snake River in the city of Twin Falls, with the only other connection sitting over 8 miles away in Hansen. As the Magic Valley has grown, so too has the traffic.

“When we started looking at the additional Snake River crossing around 2000 and 2008, the projections were that we would meet traffic capacity over the Perrine bridge sometime by the mid 2030s. And those numbers have held true from about 2000 to now,” said Idaho Department of Transportation project manager Nathan Jerke.

This has led the Department of Transportation to start looking at alternatives to both the Perrine bridge and the Hansen bridge; a potential third crossing.

While this would likely benefit Magic Valley communities economically in the short term, more studies have to be done to determine the long term benefits.

To do this, ITD will be running a PEL, or planning and environment linkage study.

“Studying and looking at how this will be impacting communities over the long term and making sure that where we strike, we’re doing it in the right place and for the right reasons,” said Jerke.

Once this is complete over the next six months, planning should begin for a potential third crossing, with lots of outreach with local communities most impacted.

“I think most people would be supportive of the idea of this third bridge,” said Tremayne. “That it’s more logical now given the development of Buhl, and Filer, and then the growth of Jerome on the other side.”

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