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Amended highway bill clears Senate

HB 286a, Rep. Frank Henderson's bill to pinpoint the southern end of the Garwood-to-Sagle freeway project on Highway 95 in North Idaho, came up for a vote in the Senate as amended - with two Senate additions. One also pinpoints the northern end of the same project. The other adds a 26-mile stretch of road in eastern Idaho near the Idaho National Laboratory to the list of GARVEE bond-funded projects that includes the North Idaho corridor. There wouldn't be any funding for that stretch, but sponsor Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said the move would bring attention, and possible future federal funding, to safety hazards on that road. Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, spoke against the move, and Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, said he agreed with Werk. "We are way out of bounds on process," Fulcher told the Senate. "By passing this, we'll just be negating that process."

Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, called the bill crucial, because it would eliminate a two-mile gap of two-lane highway at the south end of the proposed new four-lane Garwood-to-Sagle freeway, between there and the existing four-lane highway. "Essentially without this addition, all of the work, all of the expense would be for naught," Jorgenson said, because  with the gap, Highway 95 still "becomes a virtual bottleneck and an extreme risk. The purpose of the expansion was to provide safety." Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, said the project isn't in his district. "But doggone it, it's a real critical piece of highway," with serious safety problems, he said. "From my perspective, it's the right thing to do." The bill passed, 24-7. It now goes back to the House for possible concurrence in the Senate amendments.

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Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.