Rural construction, revenue and freight topped transportation board’s December agenda

Providing funding for rural construction and planning efforts, revenue issues and a report from the Freight Advisory committee led discussion when the Idaho Transportation Board held its monthly meeting Dec. 18 in Boise.

Local Rural Highway Improvement Program (LHRIP)
The annual report on the Local Rural Highway Improvement Program was presented to transportation board members.

The goal of LRHIP is to provide funding to the rural local highway jurisdictions for construction and planning efforts. It is a grant program with no federal-aid requirements. Funding in an amount not to exceed $2.8 million annually is available to cities with less than 5,000 population, county road and bridge departments, and highway districts.

The Local Highway Technical Assistance Council administers the program. It received 78 applications for funding in FY14, while only 36 projects were funded. Four types of projects are eligible for funding: construction, signs, transportation plans, and emergencies. Some of the projects funded were seal coats in Craigmont, reconstructing Park Street in McCall, chip sealing and drainage work in Franklin, and replacing signs in Custer County.

Freight Advisory Committee Annual Report
The Freight Advisory Committee (FAC) was established to assist and advise the board on issues related to the movement of freight in, out, and through Idaho. Its annual report was presented to the board at the December meeting.

There are four components of the freight program: the FAC, outreach and economic development, engaging stakeholders in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) process, and an annual report and performance review. The FAC identified needs and responsibilities that would help ITD, and it explored the potential for a comprehensive statewide Freight Plan. One of the outreach activities will be to identify an industry stakeholder to address the board when it visits each ITD district next year. To engage in the STIP process, the FAC will review freight data and the STIP for potential corridors to focus on. Plans are underway to conduct another freight summit in 2015.

Revenue issues
Because of the concern with insufficient funds, some board members have been working on components for additional revenue, including revenue trends and buying power.

Since the last fuel tax increase went into effect in 1997, the ITD’s total state funds, excluding the Buyback Program, increased about 27 percent; however, the state’s General Fund revenue increased about 100 percent. The Highway Distribution Account buying power has decreased approximately 25 percent.

In 1997, the fuel tax was 25 cents. Today it is 25 cents. In 1997, a gallon of gasoline cost $1.25, while the price in 2014 is $2.85 -- an increase of 128 percent.  Similarly, a movie ticket cost $4.43 in 1997, while today it is $10, for an increase of 126 percent.  ITD paid $90,000 for a 10-wheel snowplow in 1997. Today that snowplow costs $195,000, for an increase of 117 percent.

Annual vehicle miles traveled in Idaho increased 21 percent since 1997; passenger cars registered in Idaho are up 11 percent; the number of drivers’ licenses in force grew 30 percent; the state’s population increased by 33 percent; and the gallons of highway fuel consumed increased 17 percent.

Published 12-26-14