BOISE - In a final, end-of-session tiff between the House and Senate on Friday, legislation from Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, to extend the Garwood-to-Sagle freeway project on Highway 95 in North Idaho was killed in the House - twice.
Henderson, however, was upbeat after lawmakers adjourned their session Friday afternoon, and said his purpose likely can be accomplished without legislation.
The problem: As initially delineated, the big, new four-lane highway project would stop two miles north of the current four-lane highway, leaving a two-mile gap of two-lane road from Wyoming Avenue in Hayden to State Highway 53 at Garwood.
“Of course we’re disappointed, but I’m led to believe it (legislation) was not wholly necessary to to fix the gap,” a smiling Henderson said. The Idaho Transportation Board recently passed a resolution to address the gap, Henderson said. “I believe it will happen.”
Henderson’s original bill, HB 286, sought to pinpoint the southern end of the project at Wyoming Avenue, closing the gap. Currently, the road project’s southern terminus is simply described as “Garwood,” but Henderson said that’s not a point on a map - it’s a general area.
The bill passed the House on a 60-5 vote, but when it arrived at the Senate, Sens. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, wanted to add an amendment also pinpointing the northern end of the project. Henderson had no problem with that; neither did the Idaho Transportation Department.
But then a second Senate amendment was added to the bill, by Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, adding a 26-mile stretch of U.S. 20 in eastern Idaho near the Idaho National Laboratory to the list of projects, including Garwood-to-Sagle, that are being funded by a special type of bonds. Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles, or GARVEE bonds, allow the state to borrow against its future federal highway allocations to fund major road projects.
Davis told the Senate, “It’s a difficult stretch of road. … It’s to emphasize the safety need that exists in this corridor.” He said there’s no funding to upgrade that road, but putting it on the bond list might attract attention and future federal funding for it.
Henderson himself urged the House to refuse to concur in the Senate amendments, even though it killed his bill. “It is my judgment that the 26 miles of roadway … would represent an entirely new, and very large, GARVEE project,” he told the House. He said lawmakers long ago agreed to leave the picking of those projects to the the Idaho Transportation Board, “to limit, to the extent possible, the political tug of war as to where and when highway improvements are made.”
Henderson told the House, “These are the guidelines we have followed during my five years in the House. … I believe these policies have served us well.”
Davis then amended another bill, SB 1147, to add Henderson’s original HB 286 into it. That bill, from Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, also authorized the Idaho Transportation Department, in some cases, to use “design-build” contracts, a type of contract that’s been allowed for non-highway public works projects in Idaho since 1987.
The amended bill passed the Senate, but House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, declined to allow the bill to advance in the House. “They decided to kind of tack two bills together,” Moyle told the House. “And they don’t fit together, there’s two subjects there. … It’s upsetting to me. I offer my apologies to the gentleman from District 5, but we can’t proceed with the bill the way it’s written, they’re separate subjects. It’s foul play.”
Davis responded, “I’m disappointed for Frank, and have pledged to him this upcoming year if the absence of the legislation becomes an issue, that I will work hard with him to find the legislative fix.” Davis, an attorney, added, “I respectfully disagree with my House colleagues, but I can understand how they got to that conclusion.”
Davis praised Henderson, saying, “He is certainly a gentleman in the legislative process.”
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.