SMITHS FERRY — Highway 55 between Smiths Ferry and Round Valley Road will remain closed "another 7-10 days," according to an announcement from the Idaho Transportation Department via Twitter.
ID-55 will remain closed another 7-10 days depending on weather as crews remove slide debris, install drainage systems above the buttress, and widen the roadway to two lanes before the winter. Use US-95 as alternate route. For up to date information, visit https://t.co/ZR7L98CntP pic.twitter.com/NbPVpawfg1— ITD (@IdahoITD) November 28, 2021
ITD originally announced that Highway 55 would remain closed though "at least" Nov. 29 on Monday, but crews are continuing to work on widening the roadway.
ITD says the roadwork consists of crews removing slide debris, installing drainage systems above the buttress and widening the roadway to two lanes before winter. They continue to ask to use US-95 as an alternate route.
The closure comes following a large rock slide that occurred on Nov. 18, according to a press release from ITD.
The rock slide occurred during a scheduled closure and there were no injuries.
ITD says geotechnical experts are on-site evaluating the safety and stability of the slope, as well as determining how much material needs to be removed. ITD recommends those traveling for Thanksgiving to make plans to use US-95 as an alternate route.
They estimate the slide brought down 30,000-50,000 cubic yards of debris.
“We understand the inconvenience closing down the road causes, but our objective is to ensure the corridor is safe for travel,” said Jason Brinkman, ITD District 3 engineering manager. “These decisions are not taken lightly. We appreciate the public’s continued patience as we work to clear the material and reopen the road safely.”
ITD said they’re working on constructing a 20-foot tall rock wall spanning 500 feet. They’ll use rocks and boulders already there and bring in some other materials to build this.
Once this is done, they’ll create a temporary road for drivers to take, but they said there’s no timeline for this quite yet. ITD says they will provide regular updates of progress in clearing the road, as well as evaluating the safety of the slope before reopening it.
The impacts of this rock slide and road closure are being felt an hour down the road in Horseshoe Bend.
"We're normally closed on Tuesdays, we actually open the Tuesday of thanksgiving because it's so busy being right here on the 55 corridor, we're the main thoroughfare to get to McCall or anywhere up north," owner of Locking Horns Riverside Restaurant Summer Ohler said.
But this year, the decorations are out and the staff is preparing for the free Thanksgiving meal they provide for the community, but the dining room is quiet.
"We're still having a lot of our regulars, we call them our loyals, that are coming up and their family that's in town visiting are coming up but there's not as many people passing through," Ohler said.
Locking Horns Riverside Restaurant employs 20 to 30 people and Ohler said they all rely on this week to make up for the slow winter months.
"It greatly affects and obviously everybody getting into the Christmas season when they want more money for gifts and shopping for their kids, it's a little bit of a challenge," she said.
Smiths Ferry has been undergoing an improvement project overseen by ITD. As of Sept. 8, there have been full road closures Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as one-way alternating traffic outside of those hours. ITD says that no construction is expected over the winter months for the project, and after clearing the rock slide, all lanes are expected to be open, barring weather conditions.