Governor deserves credit: Needs input
Note: Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s statewide conference to address transportation funding in Idaho will begin next week with a daylong conference at the College of Idaho in Caldwell – Building Roads, Building Bridges, Building Consensus. A series of meetings throughout the day will culminate with a public meeting in the evening to explore funding alternatives with Idaho citizens. The following guest opinion appeared in the Idaho Statesman, encouraging the public to become involved in the process.
John Franden and Garret Nancolas
Well, a number of SOMEONE’s are attempting to find a solution to the state’s overall transportation challenges, including those in the Treasure Valley. And Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter deserves credit for his leadership in sharpening the public policy focus on Idaho’s transportation issues.
Gov. Otter’s office and the Idaho Transportation Department will hold a series of transportation funding public meetings throughout the state in July. One of these meetings will be held at the College of Idaho on Monday, July 14 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Simplot Dining Hall’s Fireplace Room.
Citizen input at these meetings is important. Please come to learn about Idaho’s transportation funding challenges and help determine the solution Gov. Otter will pursue in the 2009 legislative session.
It is indisputable that inflationary costs and continued population growth are stressing the state’s highway funding capabilities. Current funding sources are not keeping pace with Idaho’s transportation needs. The Idaho Transportation Department needs an additional $240 million each year just to maintain current roads and bridges at current conditions. And this figure is only for State-maintained highways such as Highway 44, Highway 55, Highway 16, and US 20/26!
There is no doubt the state highway system needs to be improved in all corners of Idaho. It is important to the economy of the state, it is important to outlying communities, and to all who travel around and through Idaho that we have a good transportation network. Gov. Otter recognizes that we must think more creatively about how to address Idaho’s transportation shortfall, and is embarking on a mission to solve the issue.
The governor also understands that transportation construction costs are not only a state-level challenge.
Local roadways and bridges are built and maintained by your local highway districts and municipalities. The state shares a portion of highway funding tax revenue with your local road building authority to help fund maintenance and improvements on your local streets. In Ada and Canyon counties alone, annual expenditures on local transportation construction and maintenance projects has totaled over $430 million over the last five years.
Despite this significant investment, the Valley’s rapid economic and population growth has outpaced the ability to keep up with the local transportation needs in the region.
Treasure Valley transportation planners operate from a long-range plan, Communities in Motion, to address optimum traffic flow and transportation options. The chief goal of Communities in Motion is to reduce future congestion, improve air quality, minimize the economic impact of sluggish traffic, and generally improve your quality of life.
Unfortunately, the amount of transportation dollars available to implement the plan has been only one-third of what is needed. It is nearly impossible to keep up with current needs at this pace, let alone get ahead of the growth curve to build for the future.
Gov. Otter understands that local communities have their own unique transportation funding challenges equal to those under state jurisdiction. He understands that a strong, complete transportation infrastructure is critical to the future of Idaho. He is taking leadership on a difficult issue that most Idahoans don’t think too much about, and generally take for granted.
Yes, SOMEONE ought to do something to find the solution to our transportation challenges – Gov. Otter is doing his part, but he needs your help and support.
The authors: John Franden is Chairman of the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS) and is an Ada County Highway District Commissioner. Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas is Vice Chairman of COMPASS, an association of local governments responsible for transportation planning in the region.