Idaho presents the potential for one of the most breathtaking scenic drives of any U.S. state. Since 1914, however, its roadways have been fraught with obstacles to construction and repairs. Accidents and congestion also present not-so-unique challenges to Idaho commuters.
Many Roads Need Finishing
Several roads in Idaho remain incomplete. Even major highways like I-95 await links to other main thoroughfares and across state borders. Some routes only enable one lane of traffic. Bogged down by challenging terrain and skyrocketing costs, major highways in Idaho struggle to keep up with demands for expansion. This still fails to address the issues with bottlenecks and other problems on some stretches of road.
Connections between major highways often become secondary to repairing existing roadway that is subject to damage from snow, ice, mud, boulders, and fallen trees. Another challenge is harsh winters restrict construction to narrow windows in the spring and summer. Finally, some road construction has been postponed due to environmental concerns.
Accidents Are Getting Worse
Even more disturbing than the increase of motorist accidents in Idaho is the almost 20% increase in road-related fatalities from 2015 to 2016. Death-related accidents still remain high, even increasing in cases of impaired driving and lack of seatbelt use. Aggressive and distracted driving continue to be major causes of accidents.
The increase in commercial motor vehicle accidents and fatalities on Idaho roads is also alarming. Motorcyclists contributed to motorist accidents, but the number of them killed is the only statistic that decreased. Car accidents cause many different kinds of damages, not all of which are immediately evident. Spine-related problems and internal injuries from blunt trauma may not be apparent for several hours or days after the accident.
For the last two years, Idaho has experienced the fastest population growth of any other state in the union. In 2018 alone, Idaho saw a residential increase of 2.1%. With this has come increased pressure on its roadways already stretched to the limits. For example, the travel time between Caldwell and Boise, a popular commute route, has doubled.
If population growth continues at its current rate, a million people are expected to reside in Treasure Valley alone by 2040. What could further exacerbate congestion is the lack of state funding for public transportation. Idaho only has a few options to relieve traffic congestion. It can widen the roads, which often meets with community resistance. A better choice may be to improve alternatives for public transit.
Idaho has a scenic landscape that has proven challenging for roadway engineers and drivers alike. While it has attracted a growing number of residents, it has also led to astronomical road repair and construction costs and congestion. Improving road conditions and public transportation may help congestion and, to a small extent, driver accidents.