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Building an overpass over the railroad tracks in Blackfoot is a concept that has been kicked around off and on for years. Blackfoot native Jim Patrick is adamant that the time to move forward with a plan "is now."
Patrick, who lives east of town, addressed Blackfoot's City Council on Tuesday in hopes of lighting a fire under city leaders to aggressively look into it.
"We are in desperate need of an overpass," he said. "Everyone in this town has been inconvenienced by waiting for a train; they've been late for school or work and have driven up and down the streets to find an open crossing only to get caught by the train again, wasting their time and their money.
"My fear is that someday there will be a life-threatening emergency and law enforcement and emergency personnel will not be able to get through; precious time will be lost, potentially costing lives. We are on borrowed time. An overpass would eliminate this problem...and it is a problem," he stressed.
The council seemed to be in agreement with Patrick, but realize that constructing an overpass in Blackfoot will not be an easy task.
"There are a lot of stakeholders when it comes to a project like this, including the Idaho Transportation Department and Union Pacific. Grant money for these types of projects is getting harder to come by." Mayor Mike Virtue said. "We will start gathering information and see if there's a feasible way to go about it."
Newly appointed councilman Layne Gardner said he "likes the idea of an overpass" and councilman Chris Jensen said he will start consulting with engineers and inquiring about costs.
Patrick admits that he doesn't know exactly where or how an overpass could be constructed, but believes the best place would be off Judicial Street near Courtyard Square. He apparently is not alone in his hopes of seeing an overpass in Blackfoot. When the idea was posted on Facebook Wednesday afternoon over 100 people 'liked' it within just a few hours. Like Patrick, many Blackfoot residents say that they "dislike being inconvenienced by the trains and fear a train blocking the tracks could hinder an emergency situation in the future."
Stephanie Dahn Gavatos posted, "Living on the east side of the tracks for five years, I have always worried that if one of my kids needed an ambulance they wouldn't be able to get through because of a train. It's never happened but I always worry."
Patrick stressed that his desire to see an overpass built "is not politically driven and that he is simply a concerned citizen that cares about the safety of the people in the community.
"I know a project like this could take years, and it will cost the taxpayers money, but what is the cost of a life or a home?" he asked.
Virtue assured Patrick that he would stay in touch with him and that progress on the subject will be updated at next month's city council meeting.