Idaho Transportation

Public Affairs Office
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID 83707
Fax: 208.334.8563

Whirlwind bill signing tour ushers in new
era of transportation in Idaho

Two days, seven stops, one bill and a connected Idaho.

As if to demonstrate how vital it is to keep Idaho communities connected, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne visited sites in nearly every corner of the state last week to ceremonially sign a landmark transportation bill.

The Idaho Legislature, following a protracted debate in the House of Representatives, approved a bill that will enable the state to bond up to $1.6 billion over the next 30 years to expedite much needed highway construction projects.

The governor’s visionary initiative, Connecting Idaho, will authorize bonds for 13 projects throughout the state: from Sagle to Garwood on U.S. 95 near the Canada border, to expansion of U.S. 30 between McCammon and Soda Springs; from Interstate 84 between Meridian and Caldwell to U.S. 20 between St. Anthony and Ashton.

Large crowds greeted the governor and his contingent of transportation officials, despite some unseasonable weather conditions (high winds in Idaho Falls and snow at Lava Hot Springs). About 100 people turned out for the signing ceremony at Lava Hot Springs Thursday.

Nearly 200 assembled in the Home Depot parking lot near the I-84/Meridian interchange. A standing-room-only group that included college students, administrators and faculty witnessed the signing at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston. More than 50 people watched the governor sign legislation while sitting on heavy equipment near Genesee. They also engaged in the official groundbreaking ceremony for construction of a new four-lane segment of U.S. 95 between Lewiston and Moscow.

The governor and local officials were serenaded by a high school band and greeted by a young pageant winner near Athol, north of Coeur d’Alene. And at each site along the governor’s whistle-stop (airplane) tour, the mood was upbeat and optimism abundant.

What they said along the way:

ITD District 1, Athol
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
"We need it for commerce. We need it for jobs. We need it for citizens. It is for safety. It was time to stop talking and start building."

Don Davis, project manager of the Garwood-to-Sandpoint highway, project
"Up until last week, we had to say we're going through the planning, the design and the environmental phase … but we don't have money for construction. Now we can say we have money, we will construct it. … It's so monumental to be able to say that."

Bonner County Commissioner Marcia Phillips
"I'm delighted the governor had the courage to move forward. We've been working on our project for two years. It will bring jobs and safe transportation."

Capt. Wayne Longo, the Idaho State Police
"If this bill saves one life for one family, then it's worth it. "

ITD District 2, Genesee
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
"Back in about '74, coming back with two other students on 55 outside of Banks, our car started rolling, and it rolled six times. Had it not been for the snow bank, we would have gone right into the river and that would have been our history. This road (U.S. 95) needs to be improved… The reality is, many of those projects may not have come to fruition in some of our lifetimes, either because of sheer age or accidents on the highway."

University of Idaho President Tim White
"It is difficult to have a conversation without parents asking about safety. Safety on campus and safety on the way to campus."

Genesee farmer Jay Nelson
"With the cost of building roads nowadays, you can't do it the way we did in the past. You've got to eliminate the trails and put in roads."

ITD District 3, Meridian
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
"Generations to come will benefit from what we're going to do."

Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Chuck Winder
(Following the signing ceremony:) Anyone needing to use the freeway to get home should instead do some shopping or perhaps (take) a room for the night at one of the nearby hotels. "Someday, we'll get it fixed for you, and this will enable us to do it a lot quicker."

ITD District 4
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
"You're going to have a new bridge rim to rim. You can pay inflation or you can pay interest."

Idaho Transportation Board Chair Chuck Winder
"We're going to build more roads and more bridges for less money than we could 10 years from now.”

Twin Falls City Councilman Dennis Maughan
"I think it just takes the state to the next level where it needs to be. Transportation is critical in a small populated but large geographical state."

Roy Prescott, former Jerome County commissioner
"This literally is where the rubber meets the road."

ITD District 5
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
"The use of these funds will allow us to take funds for the next 30 years and do the work in 10 years. We've been losing too many of our citizens on the highways… This is a dangerous stretch. Now that we may be getting the funds, were getting closer to giving the green light on this one."

Then, addressing elementary students from Lava Hot Springs school: "We'll be able to do (the project) by the time you're in college instead of by the time you're my age.”

Lava Hot Springs Mayor Raymond Bailey
"We hope we can make this the showcase (Kempthorne's) thinking of. It's certainly come fast, but that's how some of the best ones do it."

District 6
ITD Director Dave Ekern
“This opens the door. It allows our environmental people to begin working with the public getting designs prepared, getting right of way, so you won’t see earth turn right away. But it will be as the governor indicated 20 years sooner than it would have been otherwise.”

Ashton Mayor Teddy Stronks
"I'm just excited it's going to happen sooner rather than later."

Idaho Falls Mayor Linda Milam
"The challenge of meeting the transportation needs of the state is incredible."

Top, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne with students from Lava Hot Springs Elementary School
Middle-right, Gov. Kempthorne signs the bill on heavy equipment at Genesee
Middle-left, Gov. Kempthorne, Lava Hot Sprints
Above-right, ITD District 5 board member Neil Miller