August 2009 highlights
Gov. Otter participates in Idaho 48 groundbreaking event in Rigby
Governor urges group to view challenge from "30,000" feet
Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter last week challenged members of a new task force to view transportation funding from a statewide perspective and to look creatively for new revenue streams.
He set the direction for the Governor’s Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding in Idaho during the group’s organizational meeting in Boise. The 15-member panel is charged with exploring traditional and nontraditional revenue options to determine adequate funding for Idaho’s current and future transportation system.
Lt. Governor Brad Little is chairman of the task force, whose members include legislators, business and industry leaders and local government officials. The executive order creating the task force calls for conclusions and recommendations by December 2010.
But Gov. Otter told members he would welcome their report anytime before the deadline.
Events launch eastern Idaho projects
Gov. C.L. Butch Otter and local officials assembled in eastern Idaho for two ceremonies on highway construction projects that will improve driving conditions.
The first ceremony was held to break ground on the $3 million Idaho 48 Rigby High School to Yellowstone Highway improvement project. The ceremony featured messages from Gov. Otter, Rigby Mayor Keith Smith and School District 251 Superintendent Dr. Ron Tolman. The event was conducted on the school grounds north of the high school near Idaho 48 (300 N.) and 3823 E., where a new right-turn bay will be built.
The highway construction project, which uses federal stimulus funds, improved 1.7 miles of Idaho 48 through Rigby. The stretch of highway is the main east-west artery in Rigby, connecting the population centers on both sides of U.S. 20 that divides the community. The project will widen the corridor to three lanes, add a right-turn bay to the east (main) high school entrance and install curb, gutter and sidewalk between the high school and 3rd West in Rigby.
Course reminds employees of respectful workplace policy
ITD is committed to maintaining a healthy, respectful, professional workplace that enables employees the freedom to do their jobs in a safe and respectful work environment. That commitment is part of the department’s culture and policy.
According to department policy, all employees have the right to work in an environment that is free from harassment based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age, disability, veteran or marital status.
Human Resource Services is introducing a new online class that reinforces the emphasis on a harassment-free work environment. The course is being rolled out in stages to ease the impact on technology services, explains Michelle George, Human Resources Specialist, Senior.
Access to the online course was extended this week to employees in District 1; other districts and Headquarters will follow.
The program will train employees on the nature of harassment, what is and is not acceptable in the workplace and educate employees about how to use department policies and procedures to address any concerns that arise.
Cavanaugh Bay Airport facilities updated
Camping services at Idaho’s state-owned Cavanaugh Bay Airport reached new levels this summer with completion of new facilities that cater to pilots and passengers.
An outdated World War II-era Quonset hut was removed and replaced with new men’s and women’s restrooms and showers that are handicap accessible.
Replacing the Quonset hut with a more modern facility complements improvements made last year. Volunteers and Aeronautics personnel hauled topsoil, graded the grass airstrip and reseeded it to make the surface smoother and safer for aviators.
Located at the south end of Priest Lake, about 20 miles northwest of Sandpoint, the airstrip is a popular overnight spot for pilots. The pristine airstrip has about five campsites and a new shop.
The upgraded facility will accommodate seasonal use of the airstrip. Although the airstrip is accessible by cars and is located near a commercial marina at Priest Lake, the intent is to limit camping facilities to aviators.
Board member Bruce Sweeney loses battle with cancer
Bruce Sweeney, a member of the Idaho Transportation Board since 1998 and a highly revered former Idaho legislator, passed away Tuesday at his home in Lewiston at the age of 77.
The past few years became an endurance challenge for an athlete who once was recognized as a world-class hurdler and a contender for the U.S. Olympic track team. Bruce was in the midst of a courageous battle against bone cancer when the love of his life, Marilyn, also was stricken by cancer. She passed away in January this year.
Even late in life, with the terminal disease draining his energy, Sweeney remained steadfast in service to his community and his state. Last month he was honored by the Lewiston School District for his financial contribution to the school’s track facility.
When spectators take a seat at Lewiston’s Vollmer Bowl track and field complex, they will do so in comfort provided as a lasting legacy by the Sweeneys. Bruce recently donated $50,000 to the project that refurbished and expanded the terraced seating.
Construction pays dividends for Idaho economy
Even before the national economic downturn that began in late 2008 and the arrival this spring of federal stimulus funds, highway projects were having a substantial impact on Idaho’s economy.
Nearly one-third of the major construction projects in the public sector, either started or completed in 2008, were ITD projects, according to the Idaho Business Review. The publication presented awards to the top three projects, based on cost, for projects in three categories: government, office/retail and private.
The Sand Creek Byway, among the largest highway projects in Idaho history, was honored as the top public construction project of the year. At an estimated cost of $98 million, the Sandpoint project on U.S. 95 was more than double the closest competition – Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian ($46.7 million).
Those projects combine to create or sustain more than 3,800 jobs in Idaho, according to a formula for the economic impact of direct and in-direct transportation construction jobs. From another perspective, that’s more than the entire population of Lewis County.
The Idaho Business Review identified 34 public projects with a cost of $1 million or more. ITD accounted for nine of those projects, including five on Interstate 84 in the Treasure Valley.
ITD reporting site ranked well nationally
ITD’s portion of the state accountability Web site devoted to tracking federal stimulus funds fared well in a recent independent study.
The July report, “Show Us the Stimulus: An Evaluation of State Government Recovery Act Web Sites,” gave ITD’s stimulus project Web site a score of 53, ranking it in a tie for ninth with Arkansas and Connecticut. The report, prepared by Good Jobs First, can be found at http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/news/article.cfm?id=396
Maryland claimed the top score at 75, followed by Washington (73), Colorado (65), Nebraska (60), and California and New York tied at fifth with 58. Maryland also took honors as the best state Web site related to all stimulus projects. Colorado, Washington, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and California rounded out the top seven.
ITD’s report of stimulus-funded projects is part of its accountability Web site “Tracking our Progress,” developed by the Office of Communications. The Highway Projects section includes general descriptions about each of the eight stimulus-funded highway projects with links to detailed information. Project-specific information includes Fast Facts, “Why it Matters,” “Project Description,” “Current Status” and news releases.
ITD wildlife database wins USDOT honor
The U.S. Department of Transportation recently selected an Idaho project as among the nation’s best examples of improving the interrelationship of vehicles and wildlife.
ITD’s creation of the Idaho Transportation/Wildlife Database was named a recipient of the 2009 Exemplary Human Environment Initiatives (EHEI) and the Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives (EEI), awarded in nationwide competition.
The project entailed development of a tool that identifies the proximity of wildlife safety hazards. It was one of six projects nationwide that received a joint EHEI and EEI award.
“This is the second year we acknowledged that environmental achievements do not have to be divided between natural and human initiatives and offered the opportunity for the same initiative to receive recognition in both EHEI and EEI status,” wrote April Marchese and Carol Adkins in announcing the award.
Marchese is director of the USDOT’s Office of Natural and Human Environment, and Adkins is director of the Office of Project Development and Environmental Review.
Stimulus savings allow funding of eight new projects
The Idaho Transportation Board approved funding additional highway construction projects with savings realized from the eight original projects. The new projects were announced during the board's Aug. 20 business meeting in Rigby.
More than $50 million in bid savings emerged from the stimulus projects advertised this spring. The transportation board, at its July meeting, dedicated $15.8 million in savings to expand a section of U.S. 95 north of Hayden from two lanes to four.
Projects approved for stimulus funding last week are:
• Interstate-90, rehabilitation of I-90 bridges, $6.5 million
• U.S. 95, Grangeville area, pavement rehabilitation, $6 million
• Idaho 9, Latah County, pavement overlay, $2.23 million
• U.S. 95, Idaho 7 bridge rehabilitation, Lawyer's Canyon Bridge, Orofino Bridge, Ashaka Bridge, $1 million
• I-84, Black Canyon to Sand Hollow, concrete rehabilitation, $10 million
• I-15, pavement rehabilitation, Devil Creek to Downey, northbound, $4.9 million
• I-15, pavement rehabilitation, Devil Creek to Downey, southbound, $5.2 million
• I-15 pavement overlay, Idaho Falls to Osgood, northbound, $2.17 million
Weekend work helps buyers in 'clunker' program
As Idaho car buyers scrambled to take advantage of a federal incentive program and automobile dealers braced for the wave of last-minute transactions the Idaho Transportation Department worked behind the scenes to help expedite providing registration verification for submittal of requirements by dealers.
Division of Motor Vehicles staff in Boise worked through the weekend to help buyers beat the Monday (Aug. 24) “Cash for Clunkers” deadline. Formally known as CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System), the federal program encouraged motorists to trade older, less fuel-efficient vehicles. The intent was to stimulate the economy and improve the environment.
Purchasers who met federal guidelines for traded vehicles and standards for new purchases received additional allowances of up to $4,500.
DMV employees dedicated extra hours on Saturday and Sunday to help dealers meet special program requirements that required verification of buyers’ eligibility. Car buyers needed individual letters that confirmed their trade-ins were registered and licensed the past 12 months.