Board approves rail crossing projects

The Idaho Transportation Board last week approved funding for two railroad crossing projects in northern Idaho as part of a collaborative effort to reduce the 72 highway at-grade crossings in the corridor between Spokane and Athol.

Idaho’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) includes an allocation of $5.6 million to improve the state’s railroad crossings. ITD is working with the Washington Department of Transportation, Union Pacific Railroad and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to reduce train/vehicle collisions statewide in a “Bridging the Valley Initiative.”

The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization recently reviewed its project priorities for the northern Idaho corridor.

Design of Pleasant View/Idaho 53 Grade Separation will be completed with $2.2 million in federal aid. The match will be split 60/40 based on the proportionate share of the infrastructure. Post Falls Highway District will provide $104,316 and ITD will contribute $69,544 in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

The remaining $2.3 million federal aid will be used to advance construction of the Idaho 53/Idaho 41, Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge two years, from fiscal year 2014 to FY 2012. The project is programmed for construction with $2.3 million of formula bridge funds. Adding the high priority Bridging the Valley funds will allow the bridge to be constructed two years earlier and increase the project scope.

Other board discussion

Modifications to Safe Routes to School (SR2S) program
Because of a fatal accident in Middleton late this summer, the Idaho 44 Sidewalks, Middleton project was elevated in priority. Local sponsors accelerated delivery of the project. ITD staff agreed with its urgency and the board approved advancing the Middleton project from FY12 to FY11 in the Safe Routes to School Program.

Other action related to four projects programmed for construction in FY10 that did not reach the developmental milestone of Plans, Specifications, and Estimates in time for obligation by the end of FY10. According to policy, Chief Engineer Cole determined that significant progress had been made in development of the projects, so he recommended delaying them to FY11 rather than removing the projects from the STIP.\

Those four projects are West 2nd South Street, Kennedy Elementary School, Rexburg, District 6; Ucon Elementary School Signage, District 6; South Main Street, Malad, District 5; and Coeur d’Alene Signal and Lights, District 1.

The Boise Roosevelt Street Sidewalk also was removed from the program. The Ada County Highway District requested removal because of challenges with meeting some of the program criteria.

Dave Carlson, Director Public and Government Affairs, AAA Idaho

Dave Carlson presented AAA’s recommendations on the Governors’ Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding.

In summary, according to the AAA report, everyone should pay for what they use. The group believes in cost responsibility, Carlson said. If a vehicle class is not paying its fair share of the costs in using roads and bridges, the legislature should have the tools to correct the deficiency.

AAA encourages innovative transportation finance measures to offset the long-term impact of projected decreases in gas tax revenues, such as a vehicle mile tax.

If the motoring public is expected to pay new or increased taxes or fees, government officials must demonstrate to the public that current transportation resources are managed wisely and efficiently, and motorists must receive direct and recognizable improvements in their travel experience, Carlson insisted.

Published 11-26-2010