When ITD first came up with the list of eight major highway projects around the state to recommend for stimulus funding, it added up to $182 million - the total amount Idaho’s going to receive, including money for local highway district projects. But now the prices on the major state projects have dropped enough to fit it all in. Here’s why: The initial plans for one of the projects, the Twin Falls Alternate Route on US 93, didn’t account for $15.9 million in federal “high-priority” funds that already were available for that project. Plus, prices for all the others dropped a little bit thanks to the poor economy - bids are coming in lower, and certain key materials, from steel to fuel, have plummeted. “Prices have come down significantly,” said Pete Hartman of the Federal Highway Administration.
Tom Cole, chief engineer for ITD, said, “We’re getting some good bids right now. That’s a good thing and a bad thing with the economy.” Plus, he said, ITD has more details about the projects now, and its numbers are more precise than earlier estimates. Transportation Board member Jim Coleman said, “We can get all the projects that are really high priority for the state - especially the Dover Bridge. It’s finally gonna get done. That’s kind of exciting.” Oddly, board member Monte McClure, of the Treasure Valley, launched a last-minute push to remove the Vista Interchange from the package, saying it could be funded with GARVEE bonds and the $40 million-plus for that project could go to something else. But when other board members said it was too late to make such changes, a day before the department’s proposals to the governor are due, he backed off, and the plan passed with a unanimous vote.