City of Pocatello, Idaho State University officially open MLK Jr. Way; Wheatley family recognized for beautification contributions

POCATELLO – Officials from the City of Pocatello and Idaho State University and members of the Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley family joined together on Tuesday to cut the ribbon on improvements to Martin Luther King Jr. Way that runs through the center of the ISU campus.

“The improvements that have been made on this section of road will improve the commute of not only students, faculty, and staff at Idaho State but the thousands of residents who live near the university and all of Pocatello,” said Mayor Brian Blad.

The project, started last May and completed in late September, saw a little over 1,000 feet of road reconstructed and includes widened sidewalks, bike lanes in both directions, a bus turnout and landscaping between the road and sidewalks.

City of Pocatello and Idaho State University officials and members of the Jack and Lois Wheatley family gathered to cut the ribbon on improvements on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

The total cost of the project was roughly $750,000. The City of Pocatello and Idaho State University received a federal grant that was administered through the Idaho Transportation Department. The City of Pocatello contributed about $100,000 to the street project and ISU contributed $20,000. Additionally, the Wheatley family contributed funding for the project’s landscaping and beautification.

“This project demonstrates what can be done when government, universities and private citizens work together,” said ISU President Arthur C. Vailas. “On behalf of ISU, I would like to thank the City of Pocatello, the Wheatley family and ISU Facilities Services for making this campus improvement into a reality. The support we’ve received from the City and the generosity of the Wheatley family on this project has been tremendous.”

ISU President Arthur C. Vailas at the Oct. 13 ceremony.

In addition to the widened sidewalks to accommodate the volume of pedestrian traffic using the corridor, the section of street between Reed Gym and Eighth Avenue/Caesar Chavez Way features new crosswalks.

“The biggest thing people will notice is how the new features will serve to calm both vehicle and pedestrian traffic,” said Merril Quayle, Public Works/Development Engineer for the City of Pocatello.

Crews from ISU will complete the landscaping this fall and spring.

“The landscaping will be both functional and beautiful,” said Hannah Sanger, City of Pocatello Science and Environment Division Manager. “The swales will serve to treat storm water before it enters our system, helping to keep pollutants out of the Portneuf River.”

Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad at the podium.

Charles Wheatley, the son of Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley who have supported a myriad of beautification projects on the ISU campus, shared his family’s perception on the project. The Wheatley’s have donated about $1.6 million to a variety of beautification projects on campus and to scholarships for ISU students.

“We believe that as the landscape improvements mature, the added beauty in this main campus corridor will help lift the minds and hearts of the students and faculty at ISU to new heights and encourage them to strive for greater excellence,” Wheatley said.

Beautification along the street includes a berm project featuring new landscaping from the entrance to Reed Gymnasium up to the hill to the east end of the tennis courts.

Charles Wheatley addresses those gathered at the ceremony on Oct. 13.

“The generosity of the Wheatley family has been extraordinary on this particular project and on the many other beautification projects on this campus and other endeavors they have supported at Idaho State University,” said Kent Tingey. “They are dear friends to this University, and the impact they’ve had on this institution will be appreciated for generations.”

While the road was under construction, officials also coordinated work on several other projects including reconstruction of the steam tunnel and utility corridor between the Oboler Library and the Rendezvous Complex. In addition, Ninth Avenue running in front of the Oboler Library from Martin Luther King Jr. Way to Lovejoy has been converted to a one-way street. There has also be a renovation of the library parking lot and new landscaping in this area.

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