Delegates tell board members good transportation is essential

Chamber of commerce members and business representatives emphasized the importance of a multi-modal transportation system and quality air service when they addressed the Idaho Transportation Board last week in Coeur d’Alene. Both are critical to economic vitality and opportunity, they said.

As part of its annual visit to northern Idaho, the board met with delegates from the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce and organizations in the Coeur d’Alene area Wednesday (July 18).

Delegates said the Coeur d’Alene Airport is essential to the area’s economic growth and that recreational destinations like the Centennial and Hiawatha trails are valuable tourist assets. Both trails were converted from northern Idaho railroad lines.

Business meeting

The board heard from a number of area delegations during its regular monthly business meeting on Thursday at the District 1 office. Most of the local officials offered strong praise for the board and department. They appreciate the many improvements being made to the transportation system in northern Idaho.

The city of Post Falls proposed a new partnership project. The municipality is willing to pay for construction of an overpass on Interstate 90 at Greensferry Road if ITD will construct it. I-90 divides the city, and the mayor is eager to provide another north/south connection through Post Falls.

The board was receptive to the proposal and instructed staff to pursue the partnership.

The city of Sandpoint also is partnering with ITD on a project to realign U.S. 2 as it passes through the city. Opening of the U.S. 95, Sand Creek Byway project this week will divert north-south through traffic, including commercial vehicles, from the downtown streets. However, the east-west U.S. 2 corridor remains a concern. A partnership is under way to realign U.S. 2 to remove that traffic from downtown. The city would like to assume jurisdiction of what would be the former U.S. 95 and U.S. 2 routes in downtown upon completion of the two projects.

Later in the meeting, the board approved a $7.5 million project in FY13 for the U.S. 2 project. The Board Subcommittee on State Highway System Adjustments has been working on the issue and fully supports relinquishing the downtown streets to the city.

Idaho moves freight
ITD is developing a statewide Idaho Freight Study and is updating the Idaho Rail Plan. Part of that process includes obtaining a better understanding of local needs. In continuing the tradition started at the first tour this year in District 2, the board heard from a local company on its transportation needs and concerns.

Representatives from Litehouse, a national producer of quality salad dressing, emphasized the importance of the highway system, as it relies on “just-in-time” manufacturing. Receiving fresh ingredients to make dressings and its other products is critical, as is delivering their fresh products throughout the country, company representatives said.

The Sandpoint company that employs more than 600 workers, relies on approximately 600 commercial truck deliveries per month to operate the plant. Company officials said they could relocate their facility to reduce transportation complications, but they remain committed to Sandpoint and have no plans to move.

Eminent domain process
The board received a report on the process ITD follows in acquiring property for highway projects. The overview covered the appraisal process, offer and negotiation procedures, settlements and the decision process on when and which properties are sent to condemnation.

The right-of-way section at Headquarters has a 15-person staff, plus a property management employee in each of the six districts.

ITD staff explained different acquisition methods, such as: temporary easements, permanent easements, partial fee simple acquisition and complete fee simple acquisition. The acquisition steps include title work; property appraisal; reviewing the appraisal; approval of the fair market value and authorization to continue the process; negotiating with the property owner; reviewing the procedures; and, upon successful negotiations, closing or transferring ownership.

If the property owner is displaced, the department sometimes assists with relocating the resident or business. If negotiations are not successful, the last resort is condemnation.

Some of the property management responsibilities includes overseeing easements, leases, and material sources; coordinating surplus property disposals, except for buildings and yards; coordinating with the Attorney General’s office on agreements, transfers, trades and other complex issues; ordering appraisals of trade or surplus properties; and handling other miscellaneous activities related to being one of the largest landowners in the state.

Published 7-27-2012