Idaho Transportation Board examines transportation infrastructure challenges, renews concerns

The Idaho Transportation Board reviewed information about Idaho's aging infrastructure at its monthly meeting in Boise last week, and renewed its concerns about maintaining an adequate transportation system for the state's future.

“The state’s transportation system is vital to Idaho’s economy and the Board believes it’s crucial we address the issue before the transportation infrastructure deteriorates to the point it becomes a liability rather than an asset,” said Board Chairman Jerry Whitehead.

Department staff presented detailed information to the board about expected trends for roads and bridges on the state's highway system if current funding trends continue. Staff also briefed the Board regarding the reduced buying power of Idaho's transportation funds.

"At current funding levels, data indicates that Idaho's pavement condition will decline from 15 percent deficient to approximately 25 percent deficient by 2019," said board member Jim Kempton, a former House Transportation Committee chairman, and member of the Governor's 2009-10 Transportation Funding Task Force.

"Even more concerning are Idaho's bridges," said Kempton. "As we look forward, the number of state bridges older than 50 years will grow beyond the current 42 percent and will continue to deteriorate toward the rating categories of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete."

Whitehead expressed concern over the impact inflation has had on the department's ability to stretch its dollars.

"The cost of diesel fuel used by ITD's snowplows more than tripled from 1997 to 2014, and the cost of a new snowplow has more than doubled in that same timeframe," said Whitehead.

Idaho's state fuel tax was last increased in 1996. The 25-cent-per-gallon fuel tax is now worth 17 cents in today's dollars.

These concerns may be addressed during the 2015 Legislature, which convenes Jan. 12.

Published 12-31-14