BOISE – When the Garwood-to-Sagle freeway project on U.S. Highway 95 in North Idaho is completed, it may have a two-mile, two-lane bottleneck at its southern end before it reaches the existing four-lane road at Hayden.
The Idaho Transportation Board on Thursday 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 Legislature. State Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, proposed such legislation this year, but it died in an end-of-session tiff between the House and the Senate.
“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.”
The problem is that the “Connecting Idaho” legislation identifies the Garwood-to-Sagle project, which is funded by bonds that will be paid off with future federal highway allocations, as ending at Garwood. Henderson said that’s not a specific point on a map, but it’s been interpreted as where state Highway 53 meets U.S. 95. His legislation would have pinpointed the southern end of the new four-lane road at Wyoming Avenue, two miles south – eliminating the gap.
The transportation board previously passed a resolution to make the change, but the attorney general’s opinion, issued this week, says it can’t do that. State law regarding the bonding program says the transportation board can’t “increase the scope, nor add specific projects, nor in any manner extend or enlarge the transportation projects” in Connecting Idaho.
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.”
Board member Jim Coleman said, “However it happened, it happened. … It’s my understanding that the House and the Senate leadership has talked to Rep. Henderson, and said if it’s not funded in any other way, they will make this the first bill in the 2010 legislative session.”
The attorney general’s opinion noted that while the board can’t expand the bonding program to include the two-mile gap, it could tap other funding sources for the project if any become available.