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Posts tagged: idaho transportation board

ITD board moves up $180M in road projects, including rebuilding Meridian interchange

The Idaho Transportation Board, meeting in Coeur d'Alene today, voted to move up nine major road construction projects around the state, saying cost savings and interest savings are allowing them to push them up. Three of the projects, all in the Treasure Valley, also will tap $80 million in existing GARVEE bonding authority for part of the project cost; they will reconstruct the Meridian Road, Broadway and Gowen Road interchanges on I-84, with work scheduled to start in 2014.

The other projects include straightening and realigning U.S. 2 from Lake Street to Cedar Street in Sandpoint, on which construction will start in 2013; realigning U.S. 95 from Thorn Creek to Moscow, a seven-mile project now scheduled to start construction in 2015; restoring four miles of pavement on I-84 from the Meridian Interchange to Five Mile Road, which will start in late 2012; and construction of a new eastbound interchange at the junction of I-84 and U.S. 93 near Twin Falls, on which work will start in late 2012. Click below for the ITD board's full announcement.

Otter appoints 2nd woman to ITD Board: Julie DeLorenzo of Boise

Gov. Butch Otter has appointed Julie DeLorenzo, a Boise Realtor and Democrat, to the Idaho Transportation Board to replace Darrell Manning. Click below for Gov. Butch Otter's full announcement. DeLorenzo is the second woman Otter has appointed to the previously all-male board; she joins Jan Vassar of Lewiston.

Otter names Kempton to ITD board

Former state Rep. Jim Kempton, R-Albion, has been named to the Idaho Transportation Board by Gov. Butch Otter, to replace Gary Blick as the Region 4 member on the board. Click below for Otter's full announcement.

Court documents: Previous ITD director was secretly fired, given ‘graceful’ exit

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former Idaho Transportation Department director was asked to resign in 2006 following a whistleblower complaint, a detail hidden from the public until court documents were released last week in a separate case. The papers, filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, reveal circumstances of how former director David Ekern exited his job in August 2006. That month, Ekern said he was quitting to pursue “significant career opportunities.” But a whistleblower complaint from March 2006 alleged Ekern engaged in favoritism and “misuse of power and authority,” prompting Transportation Board members to vote in secret session to remove him. Members then gave Ekern “the opportunity to gracefully leave ITD.” The documents, filed by ex-ITD Director Pamela Lowe, Ekern's successor, seek to bolster her claim that she was illegally fired in 2009. You can read the full story here at spokesman.com.

‘Hope I can bring a little gender diversity’

Jan Vassar is the first woman to serve on the Idaho Transportation Board since it was established in 1974, and also since its predecessor board, the Board of Highway Directors, was established in 1951, a distinction she called “pretty amazing.” No women have previously served on either panel, according to ITD. Asked about his historic appointment of the first woman to the board, Gov. Butch Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, said, “The governor looked at it in terms of finding the best person for the job. … He was interested in finding the best person, and he feels he has.”

Vassar said, “In my position, I’ve been the first woman or the only woman oftentimes in the room, but I feel like I’ve been afforded respect and consideration for my viewpoints. I’m excited. I hope I can bring a little gender diversity.”

Why the short time period for appointment…

Jon Hanian, Gov. Butch Otter’s press secretary, says Otter didn’t have the option of appointing Jan Vassar to a full six-year term on the Idaho Transportation Board now. “The way it works is we have a vacancy, we have to fill that vacancy,” Hanian said. “The term goes with the vacant seat, and the Bruce Sweeney seat happens to expire at the end of January.” He added, “He couldn’t just go ahead and appoint her for the next term before the first one expires.”

Of course, the governor could have announced that he planned to do so. He also could have left the position vacant until the end of January and made the appointment then, Hanian said, but the governor’s had lots of inquiries about when he’d fill the vacant seat for the Lewiston region on the board. Vassar will “go through the process of consideration for reappointment just like any other candidate who had been there for the whole term,” Hanian said. The appointment also requires Senate confirmation, which  might not occur until after the full-term appointment is made.

Otter names Lewiston woman to Idaho Transportation Board - for now

Gov. Butch Otter has appointed Jan Vassar, former longtime city manager of Lewiston, to the Idaho Transportation Board, the first woman ever to serve on the board. However, Otter appointed Vassar only to fill out the remaining term of the late Bruce Sweeney, the Lewiston board member and former state senator who died in August. Sweeney’s term expires at the end of January 2010, which means Vassar, at this point, has been appointed to serve for just seven and a half weeks. Transportation board terms last six years. Otter’s office said in a press release, “The Governor will decide later whether to reappoint Vassar to the Board for a full six-year term.”

Otter praised Vassar, saying, “I’m pleased that Jan is joining us in the work of maintaining and improving our essential state infrastructure. Her experience with handling budgets, managing employees, overseeing construction and being entrusted with the people’s money will be a great asset to the Transportation Board.”

The board is currently being sued by former state Transportation Director Pam Lowe for wrongful termination, in a lawsuit that includes allegations of sex discrimination in her firing. Lowe was the department’s first-ever female director.

New ITD chief to be paid $17K more than Lowe

Idaho’s new state transportation director, Brian Ness, will be paid $160,000 a year, ITD reports. That’s $17,000 more a year than the salary of the previous director, Pam Lowe, who made $143,000.

New ITD director could be someone who’s never worked in transportation

Idaho’s next state transportation director could be someone from an entirely different field who’s never worked in transportation. The Idaho Transportation Board, which already has winnowed a field of 126 applicants down to a short list of a dozen, advertised for someone with leadership skills, business acumen, political skills and “a minimum of five years of senior executive level management experience.” But it didn’t say anything about highways or bridges.

“We just decided that it was probably time to broaden our horizon and see where it would lead us,” said Jim Coleman, ITD board member from North Idaho. “Some of the finalists that we have interested had not had any transportation department experience.” The board’s search for a new director comes after it fired former Director Pam Lowe in July amid complaints about her political skills in dealing with the Legislature, as the governor’s bid to increase the state’s transportation investment failed two years running. Lowe, who is contesting her firing, is a professional engineer, like all but two Idaho transportation directors since 1974.

Idaho state law says, “The board shall appoint a director having knowledge and experience in transportation matters.” But Coleman said, “That’s a pretty broad definition … that could go all the way down to driven on a highway, taken a bus, been in an airport, flown on an airplane. … It could mean that (in) the business setting that they had to deal with transportation issues … whether it’s licensing, making sure the products get to market, coordinating the transportation system within the corporation. I mean, transportation is a part of every business and every governmental agency.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and click here to read the job posting for the new director.

North Idaho freeway could include bottleneck

When the big Garwood-to-Sagle freeway project on Highway 95 in North Idaho is completed, it may have a two-mile, two-lane bottleneck at its southern end before it reaches an existing four-lane highway at Hayden. The Idaho Transportation Board today reviewed an Idaho Attorney General’s opinion that found that the board can’t adjust the project’s southern boundary without specific authorization from the state Legislature. Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, proposed such legislation this year, but it died at the last minute in an end-of-session tiff between the House and the Senate.

Darrell Manning, ITD board chairman, said the board wants to expand the project to “what we all thought was the original terminus, but the law didn’t say that.” Said board member Bruce Sweeney, “This whole thing is crazy to start with - that’s where that whole project should’ve started in the first place.” ITD board member Gary Blick said the issue shows the danger of letting political pressure from the Legislature influence the state transportation board. “If our highway (system) becomes a political plum, we could have these kinds of things all over the state,” he said. “The professionals agree that it should be done, and the Legislature doesn’t.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

No change at the top at ITD

The Idaho Transportation Board wrapped up a two-day board meeting this afternoon, which included two executive sessions on personnel issues, without taking any action. That means they’re not making any change in directors; ITD Director Pam Lowe, who drew political flak this legislative session as lawmakers tangled with the administration over transportation funding, has been rumored to be leaving repeatedly in the past few months, but none of those rumors panned out. Lowe was at today’s meeting, which closed with board members discussing a new Idaho Attorney General’s opinion that says they can’t extend the Garwood-to-Sagle project on Highway 95 two miles at its south end without legislation. Such legislation was proposed this year, but failed to pass. If the project’s southern end isn’t extended, the new four-lane road would have a two-mile, two-lane bottleneck in its midst. “This is something we really messed up on and the Legislature messed up on,” said ITD board member Bruce Sweeney, “and we need to resurrect this. … It’s just stupidity, is what it is.”

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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