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Bond may cut years of waiting for plans

Transportation: State,federal officials say few alternatives now exist if May 25 ballot measure fails

By Lane Bettencourt
Idaho Press Tribune

NAMPA – A Nampa bond election next month will determine whether two road projects and economic development work can proceed now – or must wait for years.

If voters reject the $38 million bond, which would be paid from local property taxes, federal and state officials say there are no plans for alternative funding to come to the rescue. That means the work would be put off for many years in the future.

For a number of reasons, funding is considered a long shot from either the state or federal government, the two clearest sources for money other than the city. The Nampa Urban Renewal Agency has helped fund a few similar projects in the past – like the 11th Avenue Underpass – but voters have told city leaders the agency should expire this year.

The most frequently discussed of the three projects is the Kings Corner overpass.

Kings Corner is regarded as the city's most troublesome intersection. Heavy commuter traffic on Amity Avenue is backed up for long periods by trains blocking the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

Even though the busy intersection often comes to a standstill, it does not sit on a designated state highway route so it is not a candidate for funding from the Idaho Department of Transportation. The state highway agency takes the lead on most major transportation projects.

The state's congressional delegation has attempted – so far without success – to secure federal funding in the transportation bill now being considered by Congress.

Idaho is in line to receive about $28 million from the federal proposal, but none of it for Kings Corner. Kings Corner alone would eat up half the whole state allotment.

"It's not an easy process," Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, said this past week.

Because the House and Senate versions of the bill are different.

It has been sent to a conference committee for the two chambers to work out a compromise.

Nothern said if Crapo is named to the conference committee, he will attempt to insert some funding for the Nampa project there. But he said that might require bumping some other Idaho project, which would raise objections from the area that gets pushed off the list.

Nampa Public Works Director Paul Raymond said while there's a chance the city could eventually get some federal funding to help with Kings Corner, "there is practically no chance we would get the whole thing funded."

Garrity plans in works
Unlike Kings Corner, Garrity Boulevard parallels the state highway system, so it is eligible for state funding.
In fact, the state is scheduled to finish next month $3.3 million worth of improvements to the interchange where Garrity intersects with Interstate 84.

However, that project is confined to the immediate area of the highway interchange.

The Idaho Department of Transportation has no current plans to reconstruct Garrity as it leads into the city.
"I can tell you it's not on our five-year plan," Molly McCarty, a Transportation Department public affairs specialist, said.

The future project funded by the bond would be designed to bring the roadway to five lanes, connecting with the
existing multi-lane highway near Lakeview Park, with other engineering improvements.

"We're grateful for what the state is doing on Garrity now," Dale Dixon, spokesman for the city, said. "Now it's Nampa's turn to pick up where the state leaves off."

Bond vote planned
On May 25, Nampa voters will decide the fate of three public-works projects that have been lumped together in a single $38 million bond issue. The projects and their approximate costs:

  • Construction of a railroad overpass at the 5-way Kings Corner intersection on Amity Road in Southeast Nampa, $18 million;
  • Widening and improvements on Garrity Boulevard from Lakeview Park north to the Interstate 84 intersection, $15 million;
  • Extension of services to an area planned for industrial development, $5 million.

Because it is a bond issue, passage will require a two-thirds super majority.

Economic infrastructure
The third project does not relate to transportation and is strictly a city undertaking.

The $5 million proposal is for extension of services – mainly sewer – to an area north of Interstate 84 to make it attractive for industrial development. A goal is to strengthen Nampa's economic base – and in the process – reduce the property-tax burden that is now on homeowners.

City officials say the tax imbalance has grown worse because residential growth has outpaced industrial development. But encouraging new business will help even out the share of property taxes paid by residents.

A bond issue is not normally needed when the city extends services. But officials say the scope of this project – covering nearly six square miles – is too large to be funded in any other way.

Raymond said the city would pay for the infrastructure additions up front, then get money back when businesses hook up to the system.

"When the industrial people come to town looking for sites, they'll be ready," Raymond said. "If it's going to take a while to get service, (the industries) will go somewhere else."

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