The Idaho Transportation Board last week approved a plan to invest $998 million to improve seven Connecting Idaho highway corridors.
The Idaho Legislature authorized the transportation board to finance the Connecting Idaho highway improvements by borrowing against future federal funds allocated to the state. In May, Idaho sold $200 million in bonds to finance the first phase. The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee of the Legislature must annually approve the plan.
"This investment will dramatically improve safety, reduce congestion and create jobs," Frank Bruneel, chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board, said. "The plan addresses the most immediate needs on each of the corridors while keeping within the budget we have."
The proposal now advances to the governor for consideration by the 2007 Legislature.
The plan calls for the issuance of an additional $783 million in bonds in allotments of approximately $200 million over the next four years. An additional $15 million in interest earned on the current bond also will be invested. To receive the highest bond rating and the lowest possible interest rate, the transportation board decided recommend a bond $998 million.
"We had to make some difficult tradeoffs and reduce the scope of the projects," Bruneel said. "Soaring construction and land costs have limited what we can do. But we are still addressing the most important and needed elements of the corridors. We look forward to sharing the plan with the governor and Legislature, answering questions and building consensus."
Nationally, the cost of asphalt jumped 71 percent from August 2005 to August 2006. Costs for concrete, steel, fuel and other construction materials increased dramatically as well.
"With runaway inflation eroding our buying power, it makes more sense than ever to use bonding as a tool," Bruneel said. "We can beat inflation, get more for our money and drive on the improvements now while paying a low interest rate."
Below is a list of the approved projects within the corridors and the projected construction year:
U.S. 95 Wyoming Avenue (Hayden) to Sagle
U.S. 95 Worley North, Kootenai County
I-84 Meridian to Caldwell
I-84 Orchard to Isaacs Canyon
U.S. 30 McCammon to Lava Hot Springs
U.S. 93 Twin Falls Alternate Route