Meeting the needs of Idaho’s air transportation and the increased funding demands are becoming a major challenge, according to Rodger Sorensen, chair of the Aeronautics Advisory Board (AAB).
In a presentation to the Idaho Transportation Board Thursday, Sorensen said the aeronautics challenges will continue to escalate, placing demands on financing the system. Funding, he said, will become more inadequate to meet long-term expansion of the system's infrastructure and operation.
Demand is being fueled by Idaho’s emergence as a major economic center, the impact of a diversifying economic base, the region’s quality of life and the aging infrastructure. The unmet demand for aviation capital and operations improvements at the state’s public-use airports exceeds $500 million, Sorensen said.
The AAB supports a forum in which interested parties understand the needs and available options for funding Idaho’s air transportation system, share ideas and create an ongoing set of consistent, coordinated and understandable proposals. The ultimate goal is to develop and implement long-term solutions for the critical aeronautics needs.
The transportation board approved the establishment of an Air Transportation Investment Forum , similar to the ongoing Forum on Transportation Investment for surface systems, to study and begin addressing the state’s aeronautics needs.
Other board items
Public Transportation Grants
Pending legislative approval, the Vehicle Investment Program will be funded in the amount of $312,000 for the coming year. Some of the entities that will be able to purchase vehicles through this state-funded program include the Star Senior Center, Homedale Senior Center, Minidoka Memorial Hospital and Valley Vista Care Center in Custer County.
An advisory committee was created to help with this project. Half of the committee is composed of local residents that travel the route. Federal funds will be used for most of the landscape project. Two concepts have been developed and will be presented at a public meeting this spring. Responses generated at that meeting will be used to craft a final concept that will presented to the public for comment at an open house meeting later this year.
“The Life Blood of Southern Idaho – The Snake River System” is the theme of the first concept, with an estimated construction cost of $13 million. The proposal incorporates natural, cultural and historical elements of the river system and its surrounding geographic region.
It will remind travelers of the region’s natural beauty and the task of balancing the needs of its many users. Natural features of the region are suggested through the use of native plant communities and natural and artificial rock. Elements of the area’s culture, history and ecology are highlighted through artwork that may include freestanding works or elements applied to the infrastructure. The physical landscape plays the central role in the concept with vegetation and geologic features as the primary focus and artwork as a secondary feature.
The second concept, “You are Here – Discover Idaho and the Treasure Valley,” estimated at $8 million, celebrates Idaho and the Treasure Valley and its features, attributes, and attractions.
To achieve this, a contemporary approach is employed. Artwork is located throughout the project area in a variety of forms, including elevated art panels highlighting specific regional features and events such as Birds of Prey, Bruneau Sand Dunes, the Weiser Old-Time Fiddle Festival, and the Basque Block. A simple, cohesive planting plan creates a calming environment for motorists and a backdrop for the artwork.
Although the board expressed concerns with the project, such as the cost and ongoing maintenance, the biggest fear was that landscape, particularly the artwork, will be a distraction to motorists and could result in safety issues.
Staff and the consultant took the Board’s comments under advisement and will continue to refine the proposed project.