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Board views District 2 between raindrops

Rain, sleet, and snow didn’t dampen the Transportation Board’s tour of District 2 on April 15.

Adjustments were made to the tour in an effort to keep the group dry at various stops along the way. Instead of walking around the various public transportation vehicles that Valley Transit provided for the board to view, the group boarded a bus and heard a presentation on the services Valley Transit provides in the Lewiston area and on the various vehicles that were acquired through partnerships. One of those partnerships, with the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technologies at the University of Idaho, provided an ethanol-powered van.

After viewing an archeological dig along a passing lane project, Dr. Sappington, Archeology Professor from the University of Idaho, continued his presentation in the Orofino maintenance shed. He also showed the board artifacts that have been found at the dig.

Board members also toured the Lewis & Clark Center in Weippe and listened as Mayor Norm Steadman shared stories about the Lewis & Clark expeditions. Maintenance crews treated the group to a lunch at the Weippe shed. Board members expressed their appreciation for the extra work and efforts employees took to host the luncheon.

Bridge Engineer Matt Farrar talked about the Dent Bridge – the world’s 131st -longest suspension bridge – and summarized improvements programmed for the structure in FY05.

The tour ended after a visit to the Port of Lewiston where members learned more about the containerized shipping activities at the West Coast’s most inland (and Idaho’s only) seaport.

April 16 board meeting

McCall East-West Loop Project, District 3
After considerable discussion, the board voted 4-2 to delay two projects (the I-84, Orchard Interchange to Gowen Interchange Study, from FY05 to FY06; and the I-84, Karcher Junction to Nampa Boulevard, from FY04 to FY05. Both projects were delayed to allow funding of additional costs of the McCall East-West Loop.

All of these projects are in District 3.

Board members expressed concern over several aspects of the McCall project:

  • The additional $2.5 million required for the McCall project related to the approximately $1 million condemnation case on a right-of-way parcel,
  • The new route is not an official bypass of downtown McCall, and
  • The overall construction cost, estimated at $5.8 million for approximately one mile of road.

Supporters emphasized that the route will provide benefits to the state by removing some traffic from heavily traveled Idaho 55 and providing another Payette River crossing. Currently, motorists would have a long detour if the Lardo Bridge is out of service.

Innovative financing/funding initiative
Based on studies the past 10 years, Idaho has an unmet demand for transportation improvements that exceed $3.8 billion, according to ITD Director Dave Ekern. He believes the financing mechanisms and funding will become more inadequate to address the long-term demands for system expansion and for public transportation infrastructure/operation. He presented an outline of the initiative that would address system needs and available options for financing and funding.

The elements would include understanding the current financing and funding options, identifying transportation demands for both local and state systems, and exploring future innovative financing and consistent revenue options.

Activities would encompass creating a finance policy panel of public and private decision makers, establishing a finance executive panel of key local agency and association executive directors, and conducting a seminar on transportation finance in the fall of 2004.

The board supported the director’s effort.

Board members directed chairman Charles Winder and Ekern to begin the study, with the participation of transportation partners. Their charge is to identify the needs and options for financing the state’s transportation system and to develop proposals that lead to long-term consistent and coordinated solutions that address financial needs.

FY05 CEC Implementation
The board also approved the change in employee compensation (CEC) plan proposed by management. The legislature authorized state agencies to award a 2% CEC increase for FY05. ITD’s plan, which is within the guidelines established by the Division of Financial Management, Division of Human Resources, and the State Controller’s Office, is based on merit. It also provides for a minimum raise of 25 cents per hour and will include temporary employees.

The board commended ITD’s management team for developing the proposal, and again expressed its support for providing salary increases to the dedicated ITD employees.

Photo caption: Archaeologists search (above) for Indian artifacts at a site along U.S. 12 near Lenore. The historical site was discovered as ITD prepared to add a passing lane to the highway. Matt Farrar describes the unique features of the Dent suspension bridge (lower left) to board members on the District 2 tour.

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