On November 23, a rockslide shut down Highway 55 near Smiths Ferry. It still remains closed, affecting residents, business owners, and visitors alike.
After its initial closure, BoiseDev reported the highway would remain closed for another week to ten days. Some residents of the area are thinking it will take longer than that.
“Everybody’s suffering,” Susan Dorris, the mayor of Donnelly and the owner of local bakeshop Flight of Fancy said. “We don’t believe when they tell us seven to ten days. We don’t believe it. First, they told us it would be open after the weekend of Thanksgiving. And then they told us it would be seven to ten days. And now the rumors are that they’re not going to make that.”
The Idaho Transportation Department has not posted a project update since Sunday when it announced the latest delay.
During an interview with Dorris, she hopped off the call to help someone who walked through the door. She explained ‘you’re only my second customer today.’ It was around 9:30 a.m. and the store had been open since 7 a.m.
Dorris said since the closure her bakery has been ‘dead.’ She also added that the shop was already hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the shop to shorten hours.
“We’re right on the highway, so we depend on local traffic moving up and down the highway and travelers moving up and down the highway,” Dorris said. “We’ve been here for 25 years. And people know we’re here. And we’re usually a stop on their journey… But it’s getting worse because people are really just hunkered down. There’s not much business travel moving and everyone has learned to go around 95, which means no one comes south out of McCall.”
Flight of Fancy has seen a substantial decrease in revenue since the road closure. Dorris said it has been cut by 75%.
Judith Nissula, the mayor of Cascade, went to Facebook to update the town that she is reaching out to the governor’s office to figure out if there is a way to compensate business owners who have been directly affected by this.
“I voiced the concerns of many of the business owners here in Cascade and asked if there were any means by which business owners could look for some type of financial relief as a result of lost business,” Nissula wrote. “The ITD group has been fielding calls on this subject and will be addressing what if anything can be done.”
Robert Harris, a resident of Cascade, said he traveled to Boise for the Thanksgiving Holiday. He’s stayed in Boise ever since because the drive back and forth would add more than an hour each time.
“They just put everybody in a lot of hard spots,” Harris said. “And me being retired on a fixed income, I can’t afford to keep going up and around four hours every time I want to go and three weeks at a time for closure is ridiculous.”
Donnelly residents only have a couple of options to travel into the city. One of those roads has endured three separate accidents since the rockslide and, for hours at a time, residents have been stuck in town, according to Dorris.
“There are two roads in, one from the south and one from the north. And when there’s an accident on the one to the north, we’re stuck. Can’t get out,” Dorris said. “And that’s happened three times. One time, it was six hours. The other time it was probably three. This last one wasn’t very long, (it) was like an hour and a half.”