Complaint filed over proposed US 95 route

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition wants agencies to choose different route for highway realignment. 

The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition filed a legal complaint Thursday against the Idaho Transportation Department and the Federal Highway Administration in the Central Division of U.S. District Court for Idaho over their plans for widening U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow.

According to a news release from the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, the 23-page complaint challenges the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision issued for realigning 6.5 miles of the highway from Moscow to Thorncreek Road over Paradise Ridge.

The FHA signed the formal Record of Decision on March 21 authorizing ITD to purchase land and begin construction of the project as early as the fall of 2017.

The FHA and the ITD evaluated other alternatives for highway realignment, including western, central and eastern routes, before choosing the easternmost route after years of an environmental review process, according to information on ITD’s website.

PRDC has said the proposed route would lead to loss of wetlands, remnants of Palouse Prairie, farmland and conservation reserve; and the removal of acres of pine stands and related habitat. It also would cause more noise, have a wider visual effect and it is not the safest route for travel because it is at a higher elevation than other routes and is used by large game for crossing.

Steve Flint, PRDC board member, said the group prefers another, more central route that was evaluated by ITD and FHA because it is farther away from the remnants and requires less excavation. Flint said the central route would stay closer to the existing alignment of U.S. Highway 95.

The eastern alignment will follow existing U.S. Highway 95 from Thorncreek Road north to the top of Reisenauer Hill and then shift to the east and connect back to existing U.S. Highway 95 near the grain elevators south of Moscow, the website said.

Ken Helm, project manager for ITD, said Friday he had not yet received the complaint and was not ready to comment.