September 2008 Transporter highlights
U.S. Rep. Blumenauer says nation's infrastructure,
including highways and bridges, needs attention
America’s infrastructure challenges, while perhaps most evident on highways and bridges, extends far beyond transportation, explains U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
Blumenauer joined fellow Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho for a two-hour discussion on infrastructure funding Thursday in Boise. Although many of the comments related to transportation, including an address by ITD Deputy Director Scott Stokes (see related story), the overall presentation was of a more global nature. America's dams, pipelines, electric transmissions and municipal water/sewer systems are suffering from age and deterioration, the Congressman said.
Blumenauer represents Oregon’s 3rd District (north-central Oregon, including Portland) and has vast experience in transportation, planning and environmental issues. His innovative approach helped Portland earn an international reputation as one of America’s most livable cities.
Integrated transportation system would be
more efficient with fewer levels of federal review
Imagine what the nation’s transportation system would look like today if there hadn’t been a commitment more than a half-century ago to build interstate highways.
“How could you possibly quantify the economic stimulus that we have enjoyed for 50 years?” Deputy Director Scott Stokes asked Thursday when Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) met with local officials in Boise.
Stokes called for environmental streamlining that will help reduce the time required to move projects from planning to completion. A National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, established by Congress, recently indicated that major highway projects take about 13 years from development to completion.
Search continues for missing ITD motor vehicle inspector;
Eric Elle missing since Monday (Sept. 8)
Dozens of searchers, including volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol, joined the efforts this week to locate ITD motor vehicle inspector Eric Elle, who has been missing since Monday morning.
ITD maintenance crews in District 5 joined Idaho State Police, sheriff’s departments and the CAP in an extensive search for Elle whose work took him to Aberdeen and American Falls Monday morning. A call was placed from his cell phone at about 2:20 p.m. from west of the Interstate 84/86 interchange, according to ISP.
Elle, 60, has worked in Pocatello the past 14 years and for ITD since 1982. His body was later discovered in rural Power County. Police indicate he apparently died of suicide.
Transportation board, guests to celebrate
an end and a beginning on U.S. 30
The Idaho Transportation Board will join elected officials and southeast Idaho residents in celebrating completion of the U.S. 30 Topaz to Lava Hot Springs widening project next week.
A ceremony is planned at 11:30 a.m. Thursday (Sept. 18) about one-half mile west of Lava Hot Springs. It will serve two purposes -- formally concluding the first phase of the U.S. 30 project and initiating a new project in the corridor that will widen the highway and construct two bridges over the Portneuf River.
ITD invites the public to help close one chapter and open another along the heavily traveled corridor. From McCammon, drive east on U.S. 30 about 10 miles, to milepost 369. The ceremony will take place on the eastbound side of the highway.
ITD revises incident management plan,
includes new statewide detour maps
ITD’s emergency program office introduced an updated Transportation Incident Management Plan late this summer that contains an important new feature – clear identification of preferred detours designed to keep traffic flowing during highway closures.
Mapping detours for most of Idaho’s state highways has been a two-year process, guided by consultant Kimley-Horn, an Arizona-based company that recently opened an office in Meridian, explains ITD’s Bryan Smith. Distribution of the new incident management plan began in late August, providing first-responders with a new tool in managing highway events.
The plan is available to law enforcement officers, highway districts, fire departments and Emergency Management Service providers and is included as an annex to the Idaho Emergency Response Plan, Smith adds.
ITD also is distributing a “Quick Reference Guide” along with the Incident Management Plan to serve as a field manual to responders. Both guides, including the detour plan, are available on the ITD Web site, itd.idaho.gov under “Publications.” It can be viewed online or downloaded and printed.
Transportation board recommends forwarding
$125 million GARVEE bond to Legislature
The Idaho Transportation Board Wednesday recommended issuing another $125 million in bonds next year to finance reconstruction and expansion of the state’s highways and bridges.
The bond request is part of the $998 million GARVEE Transportation Program approved by the Idaho Legislature. The recommendation will be forwarded to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and must be approved by the Legislature. The program uses Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds to expedite highway improvements.
"This request represents a cautious and prudent approach as we navigate through a period of uncertain federal funding," said Darrell Manning, chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board. "At the same time, it continues the momentum we have achieved rebuilding I-84, U.S. 30 and U.S. 95 and the planning of the Idaho 16 extension."
New Web site helps identify key animal crossings
As most of you know, the issue of collisions involving wildlife and vehicles is a very costly and dangerous element in our daily use of Idaho roadways. Many of us in the environmental arena have been working for a number of years to arrive at some sort of solution to cut down on the number of incidents encountered yearly.
We still don’t have the perfect solutions, but we are continually working on newer and better ways to detect animals in the roadways and also to get animals safely across the roads.
One solution is to have a better idea of where animals are likely to be crossing the roadway. With funding from FHWA and hard work from Fish and Game, a wildlife linkage Web site has been established. This link covers every roadway in the state for which ITD has authority and it lists the likelihood of encountering animals and the likely species.
ITD renews commitment to safety by signing
alliance agreement with OSHA
ITD affirmed its commitment to occupational safety and training by extending its participation in the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Alliance Program.
Director Pam Lowe joined OSHA representatives Bill Bankhead and Jerrold R. Hockett recently in renewing a three-year contract initially signed in 2005.
ITD became the first Idaho agency, and one of just several state transportation departments nationwide, to enter into an educational and training alliance with OSHA.
Governor asks state agencies to reduce budgets
keep another 1.5 percent in reserve
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter ordered a 1-percent state budget holdback today (Sept. 26), directing state agencies to reduce their spending immediately – just three months into the new fiscal year – in response to forecasts indicating revenue may fall more than $174 million below what was projected last winter.
“Acting in moderation now is the prudent and fiscally responsible thing to do. It recognizes economic realities, and it may help us avoid more dramatic spending reductions later in the budget year,” Gov. Otter said.
“I also am directing all state agencies to hold an additional 1.5 percent of their appropriated budgets in reserve for now as a hedge against further declines in state revenue in the months to come. We still hope for the best, but we must plan for tough times ahead.”
PERSI fund weathering economic storm
Fund remains stable despite recent market drop;
Prudent investment policy ensures member benefits are safe
The Board of Directors for the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) wants to reassure members and retirees that despite recent market volatility, it remains a stable and secure fund.
“Although the stock market plunge has shaken the stability of the financial system and hurt many public pension funds, including PERSI, I want to assure our members that their retirement is safe,” says PERSI Retirement Board Chairman Jody Olson. PERSI will continue to monitor market fluctuations, but does not plan to alter its basic investment strategy.
Investment performance is a major factor in producing system assets, and a key factor in determining contribution rates for active employees and cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for retirees. PERSI’s investment policy is consistent with the objective of reducing the risk of significant losses. Consequently, the total portfolio is prudently maintained so that assets are chosen in a way that they will respond differently to market stimuli.
Because of this prudent diversification approach, the volatile market is having less impact on the PERSI fund.
Ceremony launches reconstruction project
on busy US. 95 corridor
As traffic ebbed and flowed with the cycles of a nearby traffic light, dirt flew from shovels marking the formal beginning of the U.S. 95, Idaho 53 to Ohio Match Road project Wednesday (Sept. 24).
ITD representatives joined Connecting Idaho Partners, local officials and the public for the groundbreaking ceremony that launches the project, which is funded through GARVEE bonds. Construction will proceed in four phases, with the winter shutdown scheduled from Nov. 15 this year to March 15, 2009. Two-way traffic will be maintained throughout the construction.
U.S. 95 is the primary north-south link for northern Idaho commerce, transportation and tourism. Rapid growth in Bonner and Kootenai counties has increased traffic volumes that approach the capacity of the existing two-lane route.