The Idaho Transportation Department in redoing the U.S. Highway 20 corridor plans to eliminate the intersection which gives drivers easy access to Yellowstone Bear World.
The change to the current route, according to the Post Register, is meant to replace a series of dangerous intersections that have caused a large number of accidents resulting in death or serious injury.
The current solution would have both north and southbound drivers take a new Thornton overpass, a few miles north of Yellowstone Bear World and travel along county roads to the tourist site.
For northbound drivers, this would result in backtracking over two miles
Yellowstone Bear World, which thrives on the business of curious tourists, fears a decrease in sales if a better solution is not found.
Vice President of Yellowstone Bear World, Courtney Ferguson, explained, “We are very concerned, because in the past when they have done projects that effect the crossing here at Bear World we would see immediate drop-offs of up to 40 and 50 percent.”
Yellowstone Bear World currently employs over 100 people and according to Kristy Sterns, a spokesperson for the company, had over a $9.5 million dollar impact on the state of Idaho and Madison County in 2015 alone.
Sterns also hinted at a possible expansion which would increase Yellowstone Bear World’s employees to over 700 and lead to an increase of over $65 million dollars to the state.
However Sterns indicated that those plans for expansion would be halted if easier access was not provided.
According to Ferguson, in 2014 a tentative three-way agreement was reached between Yellowstone Bear World, the Idaho Transportation Department and Madison County Commissioners.
Yellowstone Bear World would donate land for an offramp, Idaho Transportation Department would build the offramp and Madison County would maintain it.
But it appears now this agreement has broken down.
The Idaho Transportation Department and Yellowstone Bear World will discuss further solutions in ITD’s semi-annual meeting this Thursday in Rigby.