New Idaho Gov. Jim Risch affirmed his support for the innovative highway construction program Connecting Idaho during a recent meeting with the Transportation Board in Coeur d’Alene.
Although the program is a unique funding approach for Idaho, Gov. Risch said he believes it is an appropriate tool. Connecting Idaho will use future federal funds to repay bonds (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle) to expedite projects, completing in less than a decade what otherwise have required 30 years.
The governor acknowledged that some legislators have expressed concern about the program and emphasized the need to keep inform informed about the program’s progress. The department needs to show them – as well as Idaho citizens – the program is working, he said.
Gov. Risch thanked board members for their service to the state, then stood for questions. Chairman Bruneel said the board has heard comments about the possibility of using some of the general fund surplus for transportation projects and asked Gov. Risch for his thoughts.
The governor provided a cursory overview of his plans
for the $200 million surplus, including property tax relief and education.
Approximately $50 million will be available for other uses and he indicated
that transportation can compete for those funds.
Idaho’s Tax Structure
Education received 63.7 percent of the FY05 general account appropriations, and the Department of Health and Welfare accounted for 20.6 percent; and the rest of the general fund agencies shared 15.7 percent.
The distribution of the 2005 property tax, because the subject is of high interest as state agencies begin preparing their FY08 budgets, was schools 42.7 percent, or $529.7 million; cities received 21.7 percent ($269.8 million), counties 22.7 percent ($281.1 million), highway districts 5.3 percent ($65.2 million), and “other” received 7.6 percent ($93.4 million). The “other” category consists of cemeteries, junior colleges, fire districts and miscellaneous.
Idaho’s fuel tax is comparable to that of most Western states:
Median Closures on U.S. 95, Appleway to Wyoming
Avenue, District 1
As growth occurred in the area, traffic signals were installed at some locations to improve safety at the intersections. Those signals, however, also created an obstacle to the free flow of traffic, resulting in traffic congestion. The average daily traffic has increased from 5,200 in 1974 to between 25,000 and 37,000 in 2005. Three of the intersections without signals are listed on District 1’s top 10 for traffic crashes.
The board took limited testimony on a proposal to work with local public agencies and the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization toward developing a long-term plan to increase mobility on U.S. 95 from I-90 to Wyoming Avenue. The discussions include the option of closing unsignalized median crossings.
Two local officials and a business representative expressed opposition to closing the medians. They acknowledged the traffic concerns on U.S. 95 and requested an opportunity to work with ITD on addressing the safety issues.
The board approved a resolution directing staff to work with the impacted communities on a plan, which is to be presented to the board not later than July 1, 2008.