© 2010 Idaho Press-Tribune
CANYON COUNTY — Officials will set limitations on work done on Idaho’s roads, bridges and highways over the next 1 1/2 years or more, an Idaho Transportation Department spokesman said Monday.
A state government task force concluded last week that Idaho has an additional $543 million in yearly transportation needs. Gov. Butch Otter responded by saying he would not ask the Legislature to raise taxes or fees to meet that need.
The result, ITD spokesman Reed Hollinshead said, would be no expansion of the state’s current road system and a “selective” approach to maintenance projects.
Safety and improvement projects on Idaho roads could be in trouble in the future, Lt. Gov. Brad Little of Emmett said.
“We’re going to have to address it soon,” Little said about safety and enhancement of Idaho roads, but said it would not be in this session.
Little led the governor’s transportation task force, which worked for more than a year to come up with ways to fund Idaho’s roads.
Instead of recommending specific policies, task force members offered a list of more than two-dozen sources of possible revenue for the governor and Idaho lawmakers to pursue after the economy has improved.
Current projects to expand Interstate 84 from Franklin Boulevard in Nampa to Meridian and improvements at the Garrity Boulevard and I-84 Interchange will continue because they rely on different funding. Widening of I-84 west of Franklin Boulevard toward Caldwell will require more resources, Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, said. The GARVEE bond program that pays for the I-84 work ends next fiscal year.
Meanwhile Idaho’s other roads will in many cases have to wait for maintenance or improvements.
“To go to (taxpayers) now and ask for more is impossible,” Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said about raising taxes or fees to fund roads. “We’ll have to delay that until times get better. We’ll have to tighten our belts.”
McGee, who also served on the transportation task force and is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said Otter is right not to ask for tax increases for roads now. McGee and Otter have in the past supported increases in road user fees to pay for road maintenance and improvements.
“We need more funding for our roads, but now is not the time to do it,” McGee said.
McGee defended the task force’s lack of specific recommendations for highway funding. He said the committee of 15 members gathered information that will be beneficial when the time is right to have discussions on funding roads.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
ITD to build interstate ‘slip ramp’ in Caldwell
The Idaho Transportation Department plans to build an extra lane on the eastbound side of Interstate 84 between the 10th Street Interchange and the Franklin Road Interchange in Caldwell. The “slip ramp” lane will begin at the 10th Street Interchange highway on-ramp and end at the next off-ramp at the Franklin Road Interchange. It allows traffic to get on the highway and off at the next exit without having to merge with through traffic.
“From that standpoint it’s a safety improvement,” ITD spokesman Reed Hollinshead said.
Work on the lane is scheduled to start next year between April 15 and May 15, with construction expected to last about 10 weeks. Cost for the project is estimated at $1.16 million.