Legislative session provided opportunity
to build greater understanding
Legislature wrapped up its 2007 session late Friday by approving $250
million in bonding authority for Idaho’s GARVEE (Grant Anticipation
Revenue Vehicle) program. Legislators worked extra hours with staff
from the governor’s office and the transportation department to
produce a compromise bill that keeps the GARVEE program moving forward.
At the same time, the bill gives the transportation board the flexibility
to allocate program funds where and when they are needed most. After
considerable debate, legislators agreed that our board and professional
staff are in the best position to determine how and where the funds
should be committed.
The legislation also identified that ITD should do as
much of the GARVEE work in-house as possible. I am asking the districts
and Headquarters to step up to the plate and identify items of work
that we have the staff and capability to do.
We appreciate the Legislature’s general support
of the GARVEE highway funding program and the potential it has to address
some of the state’s most pressing transportation challenges. But
we would be negligent if we didn’t also repeat the message that
GARVEE funding alone is not the answer to our resource shortage.
In the days and weeks before adjournment, we had many opportunities
to explain the department’s budget, the six corridor projects
that make up the GARVEE program and our ongoing needs for additional
Discussions in the house and senate reveal an increasing awareness by
legislators of the critical issues we face in Idaho – the nation’s
third-fastest growing state. Those problems have surfaced in many other
states as the transportation system ages, public use increases and federal
funding levels off. But there isn’t much comfort in knowing we’re
ITD staff explained in great detail during this legislative session
the challenges of accommodating rapid population and economic growth,
the difficulty of rebuilding transportation systems that are nearing
the end of their life expectancy, the cumulative effect of inflation,
and the demand to provide solutions in an efficient and timely manner.
Addressing those demands is a monumental task, one that is more clearly
understood by legislators today than ever before. That is very encouraging.
I realize and respect the reluctance by some legislators to incur debt
to rebuild our deteriorating highways. I recognize their concern for
accountability and transparency. And I appreciate their candor in asking
hard questions. That signals a willingness on their part to better understand
the state’s transportation needs and a willingness to become partners
in finding solutions.
In the long run, that understanding may prove to be one of the most
positive products of the 2007 Legislature.
During the session, many legislators asked ITD, what
are we doing to show that we are spending money efficiently. Identifying
past, present and future efficiency measures will be something all of
us will work on this summer.
Clearly we have a lot of work to do before the Legislature
reconvenes next January. But we are off to a promising start.