The state will hire consultants to examine ways to improve traffic flow on U.S. Highway 95 from Moscow to the Benewah County line and State Highway 8 from Moscow to Troy, Idaho Transportation Department Project Manager Ken Helm said.

Helm said both stretches of highway receive a lot of traffic.

“We’re just taking a look to see if there’s any needs and what are the needs?” Helm said.

Helm said the study could lead to improvements like lane additions, pavement preservation and/or even another highway that goes around Moscow instead of through it.

“It’s really hard to tell right now until we get into it what’s going to end up happening,” he said.

Fifth District state Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, said he is particularly interested in the potential for a bypass around Moscow. He said a new route around the city would lead to fewer trucks rolling through town on Washington and Jackson streets and would help drivers by avoiding stoplights.

“I think that’s an important thing, especially for Moscow’s future growth and Latah County’s future growth,” Nelson said.

He said he would like to see Highway 95 expanded to four lanes from Moscow to Potlatch.

Nelson said there needs to be four lanes on the highway from southern Idaho to the Canadian border and segments of the highway from Moscow to Potlatch are some of the last ones that need to be expanded to four lanes.

“I think it’s important to do Moscow to Potlatch sooner than later because we have more growth in the north part of the county,” Nelson said.

Safe bicycle access on Highway 95 is another component Nelson said he would like to see.

“They’re really critical steps in building the economy of Latah County to be more vibrant and grow as we do into the future,” he said.

The Highway 95 study is budgeted for $4 million and the Highway 8 study is estimated to cost $2 million. The money is from state COVID-19 mitigation funds. The Idaho Transportation Board approved the two projects as well as dozens of other road projects across the state in May, according to a transportation board news release.

Helm said consultants will probably be hired sometime this fall. There will be several meetings to collect comments from the public on the two studies.

“We definitely want the public’s input on all of this,” Helm said.

As for the Highway 95 widening project from Thorncreek Road to Moscow, Helm said he hopes to have right-of-way acquisition completed in early September and then bid the project in October or November. If those steps go to plan, he said construction would probably start in the spring.

The project, which has overcome legal hurdles for years, will replace about 6 1/2 miles of the existing two-lane roadway with a new four-lane divided highway to improve safety and highway capacity, according to the project’s website.

Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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