More than 7,000 pounds of explosives detonated this afternoon as crews began construction on the long-awaited Cheyenne Connector Project which has been underway for almost two decades.
The Idaho Transportation Department has been working with the city of Pocatello to help fund the project. ITD's District 5 Engineering Manager Brian Poole said, after 17 years in the making, everyone is excited to finally see this project become a reality.
“It is just a great thing we were able to do to get this project out there and get started on it because it has been something that has been on the books for such a long time,” Poole said.
The connector, more formally called the South End Road connector, will enable commuters to safely and quickly travel from the west end of the city to the east.
For years, the city's residents have been voicing concern over the inconvenient commute when trying to get from the neighborhoods near the Indian Hills area to the nearest interstate entrance. With the railroad running through the center of the city, people have limited options when crossing those tracks.
The connector will provide more mobility from south Fifth Avenue, under the interstate, over the railroad tracks and Portneuf River, to Bannock Highway.
Mayor Brian Blad said sometimes people are caught at the railroad crossing for 45 minutes, which can also cause a safety issue if an emergency were to occur and people would need to evacuate the area quickly.
Blad also said he is hopeful the prime location of the new, five-lane connector could spark commerce within the city.
“You are going to definitely see some interest in putting a shop there, some new retail, and putting some businesses in those areas,” Blad said.
Poole said the project took such a long time since both the city and the department encountered a litany of roadblocks along the way including: the Portneuf River, the railroad tracks, and even trying not to interfere with the cliffs which contain historic hieroglyphics on them.
But that is just the tail-end of it.
“When you're dealing with a project such as this, there is a big public involvement that we have to make sure to address all of their concerns,” Poole said. “Then with federal funding, there are a lot of rules we have to abide by to make sure we're doing everything right so that we can eventually construct it and pay for the cost.”
Blad said everyone is welcome to attend the groundbreaking ceremony Friday at three o'clock, and Poole said people can park in the ITD parking lot on south Fifth Ave. and a free bus will shuttle everyone to the event.
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