BOISE - The Idaho Transportation Board reversed itself Thursday and voted 4-1 to put the Dover Bridge back on its priority list of “shovel-ready” projects ready to receive federal economic stimulus funds.
Two weeks ago, the board eliminated the Dover Bridge and the I-84 Vista Interchange project in Boise from a pared-down priority list. Members said they wanted to spread the money around the state, and the Sandpoint and Boise areas already were getting lots of state highway spending. Sandpoint has the long-delayed Sandpoint Bypass project under way, and the Boise area has several bond-funded construction projects going in elsewhere on I-84.
“Things are changing on a daily basis regarding (the) potential stimulus package,” ITD Director Pam Lowe told the board Thursday morning. “It appears that we may get more money than we anticipated.”
The new priority list now has eight projects on it instead of six, and totals $182 million instead of less than $100 million. When board member Jim Coleman questioned what it’ll take to get all the projects ready to go, ITD Chief Engineer Tom Cole responded, “Dover Bridge is ready to come down here right now. … We have all the resources in-house to do everything we need to get those projects on the list ready. They should be on track.”
The Dover Bridge, on Highway 2 in North Idaho, has received national attention for its poor condition, and in May was named one of the “10 pieces of U.S. infrastructure we must fix now” by Popular Mechanics magazine, along with the Brooklyn Bridge, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and the Sacramento River levees.
At a Jan. 7 special meeting, the transportation board was faced with a staff recommendation that made the Dover Bridge and a Twin Falls project top priorities for potential stimulus funding, followed by seven other projects. But the first two would have taken up all of the about $90 million board members thought then they’d be receiving. So they backed the Twin Falls project and five of the six second-tier recommendations instead. They said the Dover Bridge could be funded if additional money came in through the stimulus.
That decision drew criticism both from North Idaho lawmakers and from Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who said he disagreed with that philosophy, and favored spending first where there are safety needs, and second to address congestion.
The bridge replacement is estimated to cost $40 million.
Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more news from Boise go to www.spokesman.com/boise.