Spokesman Review (Spokane)
"The legislation before you simply does this - it allows a highway district to identify a highway situation that is urgent enough where a toll road is going to be an appropriate way to recoup the cost," Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, told the Senate Transportation Committee this afternoon. "That's going to be rare."
He added, "I offer it as yet another tool - just an opportunity for local jurisdictions to help solve one of their dilemmas."
But while praising Corder for innovative thinking, the panel killed the bill, SB 1360.
"I want to recognize that there is some real merit to further discussion on this issue," said Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls. But he voted against the bill, as did all members of the committee except for Corder and Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint.
Lobbyist Skip Smyser, speaking for the Idaho Trucking Association, testified against the bill.
"This is a substantial departure from existing practice in the state of Idaho, and I think it needs more scrutiny," he told the panel, noting that lobbyists for major utilities, highway districts and others likely would want to weigh in. However, none of them showed up to testify at the hearing on the bill, SB 1360.
Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes said he had questions about whether a vote of the people would be required for a highway district to incur debt, which would then be paid off by tolls. The bill allowed for a vote in some cases, but didn't require it in all cases.
Keough said after the meeting, "I think it's a concept that we need to debate. I think we're in a rapidly growing state, and our ability to construct and maintain roads that meet our needs is deteriorating. We need every tool in the toolbox, and I think this is a tool that needs more explanation and exploration." She added, "I've driven on some great toll roads that got me there quickly without rattling my teeth."
Though a majority of states use toll roads, sparsely populated Idaho hasn't used them in many years. However, existing law grants turnpike authority to the state to create toll roads and collect tolls. That law's never been used, according to the Idaho Transportation Department, but in the 1860s, Idaho's territorial legislature granted 42 franchises for toll roads or ferries. Tolls were as high as $2.50 for a wagon and single span of horses, mules or oxen.