Elmore County has a new airport. Really, an old airport with a new name. As a result of Idaho Transportation board action on Aug. 18, a state-owned airport north of Mountain Home and about midway between Boise and Fairfield, was rechristened the Smith Prairie Downer Memorial Airport.
Downer Brothers Lumber Co. constructed the Smith’s Prairie Airport in the 1940s as a way of quickly accessing its lumber mill from the Boise Valley. Following closure of the mill, the Division of Aeronautics began operating the airport through a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service in 1956. The state assumed outright ownership of the airport later through a land exchange with the Forest Service.
A surviving Downer son asked the Division of Aeronautics about the possibility of re-naming the airport to recognize his father and uncles for building it. ITD staff presented the proposal to Elmore County Commissioners and the Aeronautics Advisory Board. After receiving no objections, the recommendation was forwarded to and approved by the transportation board during its meeting in Pocatello.
Other board agenda items
Idaho 21, Canyon Creek Avalanche Mitigation Project
Last year, ITD hired an avalanche safety company to study the avalanche-prone Canyon Creek area. The study concluded that by implementing avalanche hazard mitigation, those closures could be reduced by as much as 50 percent. Damage to highway facilities also could be reduced, thereby decreasing operating expenses.
The avalanche hazard mitigation program would consist of constructing a remote access weather station on Idaho 21, constructing a remote access Dynamic Message Sign in Challis, purchasing specialized equipment, and entering into an annual contract for preemptive helicopter “bombing.”
The board approved $288,000 for the project in FY06. Board members recognize the economic importance of this route to cities such as Stanley and also the need to address safety issues for the ITD maintenance employees and traveling public.
DMV Information Technology System Transition
ITD staff provided statistics on the number of documents processed and maintained in the Division (last year, approximately 620,000 titles were issued; nearly one million driver’s records are maintained in the database). DMV staff also outlined the limitations of the current computer system. A team has been exploring options to replace the existing system and recommended purchasing a new system to be developed by a vendor and hosted and maintained by ITD.
The first phase of this transition would be for the Vehicle Services Section. It would cost approximately $40 million and take three to four years to develop and implement. System transitions then would be implemented for Driver Services and Commercial Vehicle Services, requiring an additional 2-3 years.
The new program is needed to address the Financial Services requirements for new point-of-sale accounting and inventory tracking systems. It also would be used to process data from the Division of Aeronautics’ programs: airman licensing, aircraft registration and aircraft dealer registration programs.
Board members said they realize the need to modernize the department’s information technology systems. They endorsed the acquisition of outside vendor support to proceed with the DMV initiative; however, appropriate board briefings and approvals will be required during the process.
District 5 tour
Last year, there were approximately 540,000 boardings, Binggeli said. He led the group on a tour of the facility and showed vehicles in the fleet, including the bus that it provided for the filming of Napoleon Dynamite.
During the tour of the district, the board also met with Bingham County Commissioners and participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Greater Blackfoot Area Greenbelt.