Some analysis of the plan JFAC approved this morning to fund a $200 million GARVEE bond program shows that funding for one of the Idaho Transportation Department’s top priorities – a freeway to replace the congested highway between Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint – has been defunded in favor of an eastern Idaho project that’s not even ready to go.
“To me, that was a real surprise, that they took that much money and put it over to U.S. 30, because we can’t even use it there,” said Chuck Winder, chairman of the Idaho
Transportation Board. “We’d rather spend it on Garwood to Sagle. Our hope is that it would be amended.” Improving standards for U.S. Highway 95 is “one of the highest priorities” for the department, Winder said. It’s the state’s only north-south route, and the frequent scene of deadly accidents.
The huge Garwood-to-Sagle project on Highway 95 is projected to cost $324.2 million by the time it’s all done; the department’s recommendation for the first round of GARVEE bonding was to spend $40 million on right-of-way purchases and engineering for the project. JFAC’s approved plan puts only $3.4 million toward it, and targets $65.6 million to U.S. Highway 30 from McCammon to Soda Springs in eastern Idaho. Winder said only one project totaling about $29 million is ready to go there – the rest of the money couldn’t be spent there yet. “We would like to see that $36 million go to Garwood to Sagle,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne issued a strongly worded condemnation of JFAC’s move to trim back his highway proposal: “I’m very concerned that today’s vote by JFAC leaves a number of highway priorities without adequate funding. It was said during today’s committee debate that this proposal is ‘simple and meager.’ I agree. This proposal raises questions about our future ability to address safety needs on our roads, improve highway efficiency for Idaho goods and commerce, and connect Idaho.”