At a joint meeting of the House and Senate transportation committees this afternoon, state transportation officials told lawmakers they’re scrambling to prepare for what they’re calling “Stimulus II,” federal legislation also known as the 2010 Jobs Bill that could potentially bring another $182 million to Idaho for shovel-ready, bid-ready transportation projects. The bill, a version of which has passed the U.S. House but not yet been considered in the Senate, includes a critical requirement: That 50 percent of the money be awarded in 90 days. “It’s going to be very, very difficult for any state” to meet that requirement, ITD chief engineer Tom Cole told the lawmakers, but ITD is gearing up. States that don’t meet that time frame would lose out to others that do. “It’s going to be tight,” Cole said.
Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, said if the usual bidding rules hold up the process, “If there need to be code changes that we can make and we can get agreement on, we’re prepared to do so,” if it would mean “not leaving $180 million on the table” that could go to needed road projects in Idaho. Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, said he could think of an unfunded freeway project on I-90 in Post Falls that would be a good candidate for the program. Other lawmakers said they, too, can think of unfunded but needed projects that could use the money.