Transportation board holds its first meeting of new year

At its first meeting of the new year Jan. 16 in Boise, the transportation board heard an annual report from the Division of Aeronautics, listened to a delegation interested in using the Port of Lewiston and approved an expressway designation.

Division of Aeronautics
In 2013, $450,000 was provided as matching funds for Federal Aviation Administration grants to general aviation airports. The money was used for 12 rehabilitation projects, seven planning projects, and two new facilities. For 2014, $700,000 is estimated to be available for projects.

Last year, there were 33 aviation accidents with 12 fatalities in Idaho compared to 39 accidents with five fatalities in 2012. Pilots making poor decisions appeared to be the most common factor in the incidents.  Flying in poor weather conditions in aircraft not equipped with anti-ice/de-ice equipment claimed eight lives. A mid-air collision claimed another life. Fuel mismanagement was responsible for two additional fatalities. To address some of the safety concerns, standard operating procedures were developed for Johnson Creek, the state’s most popular airstrip.

Several state airports were instrumental in firefighting efforts in 2013. Four were used for fire suppression aircraft and as base camps. It was also noted that recreational usage at the state airports was up 10 percent over the last two years. Volunteers continue to be a valuable asset with maintaining and improving state airports. Last year, 335 man hours contributed to enhancements at eight facilities.

Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Delegation
PNWER, comprised of the public and private sector, was established in 1991 to address various issues of concern to the Pacific Northwest region, including energy and transportation. Five states, three Canadian provinces, and two territories are represented on the coalition.

The delegation expressed interest in using the Port of Lewiston; however, a good, reliable corridor to Canada is needed. Access to markets and moving products is critical.

PNWER would like Idaho to take the lead on harmonizing vehicle size and weight standards in the region and to streamline the permitting process. Another initiative it would like Idaho to help coordinate is Fast Forward Northwest. This public/private partnership would improve international market access for exports by eliminating bottlenecks on rail corridors and improving road and port connections.

Designation of an Expressway
An “expressway” is a segment of highway used as a through highway, with partially controlled access, accessible only at locations specified by the department. Expressways are characterized by medians, limited at-grade intersections and high speeds.

The board approved District 2’s request to designate a portion of U.S. 95 as an expressway from Lewiston to Moscow.  The majority of the route has been improved. Efforts are underway to improve the highway from Thorncreek Road to Moscow. The final stages of the Environmental Impact Statement are underway.

Published 1-24-14