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Building Salmon’s New Highway 93 Trail Together

The Salmon/Challis Trails Group (SCT), coordinated by SVS, has been working to promote trail construction, improvement, and maintenance in Lemhi County since 2008. This group has consisted primarily of area biking and hiking enthusiasts, businesses who know trails will have a positive effect on the local economy, youth employment organizations, public land managers, city and county officials, and community-based organizations. 

As many of you are aware, one of the group’s biggest successes has been a coordinated effort among citizens, county commissioners, and the Idaho

Transportation Department advocating for funding of a 5-mile bike/ped trail south of the Salmon community. The Highway 93 South Trail will be sited in the highway right-of-way, vastly improving safety for citizens who wish to bicycle into town from outlying neighborhoods, the Salmon Airport, or to and from a popular Bureau of Land Management river access site. 

Highway 93 bisects the narrow Salmon River Valley and provides the only route into the community from the south for 60+ miles. In the area five miles south of Salmon, there are a number of residential neighborhoods, recreation sites along the Salmon River, the Salmon Municipal Airport, and at least two major employment centers, making this a heavily trafficked thoroughfare. Because this highway corridor is a singular connection into the community from the south, the very narrow highway shoulder has been used by bikers, horseback riders, ATV riders, and pedestrians alike for decades. The existing infrastructure design does not lend itself safely to any non-motorized travel. 

This brand new paved trail would be aligned in the Highway 93 right of way, anchored between Kids’ Creek Park (a planned trailhead within Salmon city limits) and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Shoup Bridge recreational site to the south, improving travel safety for bicyclists and pedestrians along a 5-mile stretch of rural highway. Both the Kids’ Creek Trailhead (a city-owned park) and the Shoup Bridge Recreational Site have existing parking and restroom facilities, though the BLM has committed to expanding restrooms, parking, bicycle facilities and trail network signage in anticipation of increased ridership along this new trail. Once connected to the Shoup Bridge site, this trail would also create direct non-motorized access to the Salmon River and additionally serve as a connection point for dozen of miles of trails nearby, primarily located on lands managed by the Forest Service and BLM. Signs depicting the larger Salmon/Challis Trails Network would be installed at both trailhead locations, and additional wayfinding signage would be installed along the designated route, offering users information about the route, adjacent services and recreational opportunities, allowing users to continue their trail adventure beyond each trailhead site, if they choose. 

The trail itself will be a 10′ wide asphalt path, which would initiate at the Kids’ Creek Park Trailhead. An existing lighted crosswalk nearby may be utilized to get trail users from the west side of Highway 93 S to the east side in a 25 mph speed zone. Three new additional pedestrian crossings, with pedestrian activated flashing lights, appropriate signage and pavement marking will be included at intervals along the trail to accommodate the pedestrian and bicycle traffic generated by the subdivisions and major employment centers along the route. Design of the trail along the full 5-mile route would need to consider the proximity of the trail to 35 to 65 mph highway traffic. The final trail design would be sited a good distance form the highway shoulder, and the narrower stretches would likely include a physical barrier placed between the highway and the trail, or other options, such as narrowing of the trail itself, or acquiring additional right of way to provide the necessary clearance between the trail and highway. 

For decades, community groups have put forward trails proposals to provide safe routes between key access points in our county. While there were some small successes, many of these efforts fizzled because the timing inhibited landowner and agency cooperation or environmental issues and funding support posed barriers. When the Salmon/Challis Trails Group formed, we strove to tap the passion and creativity of people who had worked on previous efforts, as well as invite new faces to contribute to the trail planning process. The result was a well-rounded group of go-getters committed to making the long-term goal of developing a trails network around Salmon a reality, and this approach has paid off through the years.

Between 2014 and 2015, SVS hosted five public meetings which engaged more than 100 individuals, including economic development professionals, business owners, federal land management staff and leadership, city and county elected officials, school officials, the local mountain biking association, conservation organizations, and interested citizens. At each of these community meetings, concerns were broadly expressed about the extremely narrow shoulder of Highway 93, making it impossible to safely walk, run, bike, or ride horses to access town and outlying areas. In other communities, children who live on the outskirts of town can acquire some level of independence by using a bicycle for transportation, but most children in Lemhi County wouldn’t dare – it’s just too dangerous to share the highway with fast moving vehicles. The proposed trail design would separate non-motorized users from Highway 93 motorized traffic, which routinely travels at speeds of up to 65 mph. 

Other community benefits include support of a local workforce, youth engagement, and the opportunity for seniors and all community members to improve their health. The construction of this trail segment will provide local contractors an opportunity for work, and the Youth Employment Program (a local youth corps) sees the trail network as an opportunity to put local youth to work maintaining the trail; enhancing local skills and knowledge and empowering youth who wish to stay local, but who often face scant employment options. Hotel owners have commented that this is the sort of project that can entice visitors to stay longer in our area. Senior citizens have reported that a safe, paved, fairly flat place to walk would be a significant benefit to them. 

This Highway 93 Trail project will increase safety, encourage active lifestyles for all ages, and stimulate local businesses. We hope that People for Bikes can help us move this plan into action – creating a highly visible demonstration of how a community trail can improve safety, health, and prosperity for the community of Salmon, Idaho. 

April 2020 – The Latest Project Update

At the end of 2019, Western Federal Lands Highway Division (WFLHD), the project management agency for Salmon’s Highway 93 Trail, presented a “mostly” complete engineering design for the trail to the Salmon/Challis Trails Group. Unfortunately, the design which they presented did not hit the mark for safety considerations–it sited the trail right next to the Highway 93 shoulder. Considering the safety issues of folks already using the highway shoulder for pedestrian travel, that just wouldn’t do. WFLHD has been asked to adjust their engineering designs, to make sure the trail is sited as far from the highway shoulder as possible. Due to this delay in progress, construction of the project has been pushed back once again, this time to Spring of 2021.

It is possible that WFLHD may run into additional delays due to finalizing utility conflicts along the highway shoulder and right of way access for the driveways intersecting the road along the brand new trail. In a best case scenario, construction contracts will be put out for advertisement and award in 2020 to meet the 2021 construction timeline. Stay tuned for more information as the project rolls out!

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