A special committee charged with drafting an action plan for backcountry airstrips presented its results to the Idaho Transportation Board during its monthly meeting this week (July 19, 20) in Coeur d’Alene.
The Division of Aeronautics established the steering committee last year to review, analyze, and determine the best steps to take in preserving the state’s backcountry airports and draft a plan to preserve the unique access to the remotest parts of Idaho.
Committee members believe conditions, hazards and uses of backcountry airstrips should be identified and improvements implemented to ensure a viable system in the year 2034. Three public meetings were held statewide to hear concerns and ideas from interested citizens, stakeholders, state and federal agencies, aviation organizations, associations and foundations, and aviation officials from adjoining states.
The public had an opportunity to review and provide comments on the Idaho Airstrip Network Action Plan earlier this year.
The action plan is a result of that broad input. The suggested strategies follow three broad themes:
The transportation board approved the plan and directed ITD staff to begin developing partnerships to implement the contents and associated actions. The board also commended ITD's staff for its efforts, involving a broad range of constituents in the process and for establishing new partnerships.
Implementation of House Bill 102
The board may designate the specific point of crossing and specify the method and conditions of crossing to maximize public safety. The costs of signing the trails at designated crossing points and of mapping will be the responsibility of the Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR). The costs of signing the highways will be the responsibility of ITD.
The board authorized ITD Director Dave Ekern to proceed in partnership with the IDPR.
Representatives from the city of Ponderay and Bonner County also believe growth will continue in the Idaho 200 corridor. The Ponderay mayor asked the board to fund a study to identify and address those corridor needs. The board, however, traveled a portion of the highway on Tuesday and saw first-hand the narrow bridges and overall condition of that route.
They also saw first-hand the massive $35 million U.S. 95, Setters to Belgrove highway reconstruction and realignment project.
The highlight of their Tuesday District 1 tour, however, was a luncheon with employees at the Sandpoint maintenance facility. In addition to visiting informally with staff, board members listened to presentations on a rock fall project on U.S. 2, salt usage on area highways and damage to state property and insurance recovery.
Following the presentations, ITD staff manned information stations and explained to board members more about the employees’ responsibilities, ranging from surveying to working with asphalt and aggregates. Heavy road equipment also was displayed and available for board members to view.