Northern Idaho delegations support loal highway projects

The Idaho Transportation board met with area delegations during its Coeur d’Alene tour last week (July 14). Most of the local officials, particularly those from Bonner County, Sandpoint and Ponderay, expressed appreciation for the highway improvements in their area.

The Selkirk Pend Oreille Transit, or SPOT, manager reported on its formation. Four cities in Bonner County partnered to create the regional public transit service. Initial funding came from a federal stimulus grant; however, the SPOT manager believes the service will be self-sustaining because of the considerable need for public transportation in the area.

Private partnerships also are being explored to help SPOT increase mobility in the area.

Scott Brusaw of Sandpoint summarized Solar Roadways’ efforts to develop solar panels for highways. He has received two Federal Highway Administration grants to continue research and development at his facility near Sandpoint.

The energy generated from those solar collection panels could be used for lighting. LED lights in the panels could warn motorists to use caution or slow down. The lights also could be placed in crosswalks, making pedestrians more visible. In addition to the safety applications, the energy could be used to re-charge electric vehicles or sold to utility companies.

The panels have a life expectancy of about 20 years before needing to be refurbished. Brusaw believes the cost to install panels on a highway would be approximately $4.4 million per lane mile. He acknowledged that manufacturing textured glass strong enough to support vehicles is an engineering challenge. One of the next steps will be to install the panels on his parking lot to continue testing and researching the solar panels’ application.

Other board business

District 1 report
District Engineer Damon Allen summarized various activities in District 1.

A number of its performance measure goals are being met. In addition to all six of its projects in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, six other projects were delivered in FY11. Almost 82 percent of the district’s pavement and 78 percent of its bridges are in good condition; the goals are 82 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

A Development Services Section was created through the realignment process. The new section will focus on planning, permitting, access management and Geographic Information Systems. The Traffic Section also was split, with the signing function moved to Operations.

Some of the district’s efficiencies and innovations include upgrading the de-icing program, resulting the introduction of dry salt to improve quality and safety, the invention of the slush blade or squeegee plow blade to remove slush from roadways (see photos), and an advanced vehicle location system that allows automated recordings of various data. That information will assist with improved management of district resources.

2012 proposed legislation
The board approved submitting three legislative ideas to the Division of Financial Management for the 2012 session with the option of adding a fourth concept. If DFM approves the concept, ITD staff will draft legislation for the board’s approval.

1. The first concept is to eliminate the pilot registration requirement, currently a $6 annual fee, and increase the aircraft registration fee. The additional funds generated would be used to reinvigorate the search pilot network and improve pilot safety programs.

2. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a new rule that prohibits texting by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers while operating in interstate commerce. The regulation imposes sanctions, including civil penalties and disqualification from operating CMVs in interstate commerce for drivers who fail to comply. States have three years to implement the new requirements.

3. The third proposal would codify designation of ITD as the Federal Transit Administration funding recipient. This designation currently is contained in a Governor’s Executive Order, which must be renewed every five years.

ITD staff did not recommend comprehensive airport land use planning legislation because it believes there are other entities, such as the Association of Idaho Cities, that would be more appropriate to sponsor the legislation.

Improper land use around airports creates a potential hazard to people near the airport and frequently results in curtailment or closing the facilities. The proposed statute change would make it mandatory for land use planning authorities to perform such planning around airports.

The board believes this is an important issue and directed ITD staff to propose legislation if no other agency pursues it.

Published 7-22-2011