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Idaho Transportation Board

 

Subcommittee on State Highway System Adjustments

 

November 17, 2004

 

 

Transportation Board Vice Chairman Jack Combo and Members Monte C. McClure and Gary Blick, Local Highway Technical Assistance Council Administrator Joe Haynes, and Senior Transportation Planner Garry Young met at 2:30 PM on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 in Room 200 at the Transportation Department, Boise.  Board Members John McHugh and Neil Miller and Office Specialist 2 Wilma Geiger were also present.

 

City of Rocks Backcountry Byway, District 4.  A delegation consisting of Idaho State Senator Denton Darrington, Cassia County Commissioners Clay Handy, Paul Christensen, and Dennis Crane, City of Albion Mayor Don Danner, Albion City Attorney Kerry McMurray, and Wallace Keck, Supervisor, City of Rocks Reserve, were present.  Senator Darrington expressed appreciation for the Transportation Department’s assistance with the scenic byway program.

 

Mr. Young did an informal rating of STC 2841, Connor Creek to Almo.  Even with a generous rating and giving the route the benefit of doubt, he came up with a rating of 57 out of a possible 100.  Because he doesn’t foresee a higher rating for this route, he said an option may be for the Board to formulate a new policy requiring state highway access to high recreational areas like the City of Rocks.

 

Vice Chairman Combo mentioned that the rating system was established 10-12 years ago based on Idaho Code.  Mr. Haynes said that the economy of the state is shifting from natural resources to recreation and tourism.  Due to this shift, he questioned changing Idaho Code and the criteria for the rating system.  Because the rating system was developed internally, Member Blick does not believe a change in Idaho Code would be necessary to update the rating system.

 

Mr. Young concurred that modifications could be made to the rating system without changing the statute.  He said that the rating system includes economics as a criterion.  He cautioned that a change giving greater weight to recreation and tourism could result in the state providing access to all major recreation areas such as Targhee Ski Resort.  Member Blick concurred and believes caution is needed.  Mr. Young added that another consideration for the rating system could be how important the road is to the state highway system grid.

 

Regarding the City of Rocks Backcountry Byway, District 4 Engineer (DE) Devin Rigby said Idaho has been receiving approximately $2 million annually in federal discretionary funds to improve that road.  He anticipates receiving funding for another two or three years for the Byway.  Member McClure asked how many miles will have been improved after the current project is completed and how many additional miles will need to be improved.  Mr. Keck said the first phase was a little less than six miles.  DE Rigby said the dollars have not been secured for the next 13 miles.  The second phase is funded, but based on the higher-than-anticipated bids received on the project, he believes a fourth phase will be needed based on the level of funding received to date.  When the second phase is completed, half of the route will have been improved.  The next phase is currently being designed and construction is anticipated in approximately one and a half years.

 

Vice Chairman Combo asked if staff should review the rating system to give more emphasis to tourism.  Member McClure believes tourism is a major factor now.  Because there are a number of local roads that score around 57, his preference would be to leave the rating system alone, but if a local public agency improves a route, then consideration should be given to adding it to the state’s system.  He is concerned that it may be more difficult to secure public lands or other discretionary funds if the route is on the state’s system.

 

Commissioner Handy concurred that the City of Rocks Backcountry Byway may never meet the Department’s criteria to be a state highway, however, he believes the Department should look outside of the existing criteria and consider the state park.  There are 17,000 acres available for recreation and tourism at the City of Rocks, but the road leading to the park is probably one of the worst roads in the state.  He encouraged the Subcommittee to re-consider its criteria and provide access to state parks.

 

Vice Chairman Combo asked if staff should look at what other state parks are not currently accessible via a state highway.

 

Mayor Christensen thanked the Subcommittee for its time and for the discussion on the rating system.  He reminded the group that the importance of a route to the state highway system is a factor, and that this Byway is occasionally used as an alternate route for I-84.  He added that tourism in the area is increasing, as is the truck traffic.  He doesn’t know if the type of vehicles using the route is a factor, but stressed that heavier vehicles, including recreational vehicles, are using the road.  Mr. Young responded that the type of vehicles is not considered, only the number of vehicles.

 

Member Blick reiterated that this route leads to a state park, and he believes the state should provide access to state facilities.  This is a state problem.

 

The delegation left the meeting at this time.

 

SH-25, District 4.  Mr. Haynes summarized Jerome Highway District’s proposal for the state’s relinquishment of SH-25.  The route is approximately 38 lane miles, from the junction of US-93 to SH-50.  He emphasized that this is the local agencies’ first proposal and it is willing to negotiate.  Member McClure questioned the Highway District’s request for a snow blower.  DE Rigby said the District uses a snow blower on SH-25 about every third or fourth year, mainly to knock down snow drifts, particularly where the route heads south and is affected by cross winds.  He suggested that District staff visit with the commissioners to discuss this proposal and ITD’s current and projected maintenance costs on the route.

 

In response to a question on whether this highway has been rated, Mr. Young replied that it has not been reviewed recently.

 

Member McClure believes Jerome Highway District’s proposal is high, as it totals approximately $1 million.  He supports removing mileage from the state’s system, but suggested staff re-negotiate the numbers with the local officials.

 

ACTION:  Discuss the SH-25 relinquishment proposal with Jerome Highway District – Hutchinson (District 4).  DUE:  April 2005

 

Transportation Planning Administrator (TPA) Charles Rountree and Assistant Chief Engineer – Development (ACE-D) Steve Hutchinson joined the meeting at this time.

 

City of Rocks Backcountry Byway, Revisited.  Member McClure emphasized that Mr. Young’s rating of this route was generous.  He asked TPA Rountree how the state’s new emphasis on tourism is being factored into the scoring system.  TPA Rountree acknowledged that if economic considerations, such as recreational facilities, are provided a lot of weight in the rating system, it could affect a lot of roads in the state.

 

Member McClure suggested that if tourism is not considered in the rating system, staff should consider adding tourism as a factor.

 

ACTION: Review the rating system and determine if changes should be made based on changing conditions (specifically economic) since the system was developed; and provide a list of all state parks that are not currently accessed by state highways - Young/Rountree.  DUE:  January 10, 2005.

 

Proposed Snake River Crossing, Twin Falls, District 4.  DE Rigby said that $1.49 million in federal discretionary funds were received for an environmental study for this proposed river crossing, requiring a match of $372,500.  The locals have a commitment of $118,500 over a three-year period and have requested state assistance for the remainder.  ITD needs to determine if this route is a potential state highway and wants to provide match money.  If ITD provides assistance, DE Rigby said a request for proposal could be developed to identify the corridor and then turned over to the local entities for preservation.  He added that no construction year has been identified.  The intent at this time is to identify the corridor and work on preserving it.  He said both counties are willing to try to protect the corridor through zoning, but the commissioners need to know its location.

 

Just because $1.49 million has been earmarked for this project, TPA Rountree said that not all of the money has to be spent.   He believes getting the project to the point where locals can identify the corridor and work towards preserving it would cost significantly less than $1.49 million.  He estimated that work would cost between $300,000 and $500,000, reducing the required match.  He expressed concern that a $1.49 million environmental study today is only going to be good for about three years.  Additionally, based on the planning act, the cities need to be actively involved in this project, not just the counties.

 

Member Blick supported spending the minimum amount on an environmental study.  He asked if the remaining funds could then be committed to right-of-way acquisition.  Depending on the new federal transportation authorization act, TPA Rountree believes that may be feasible.  Member Blick recommended spending approximately $500,000 on the environmental study, utilizing the locals’ funds for match, and then providing state assistance for match above the locals’ commitment of $118,500.  However, he questioned the legality of spending state funds on routes that are not on the state highway system.

 

TPA Rountree replied that he received a legal opinion from ITD’s former Deputy Attorney General Steve Bywater indicating that planning funds and STP money can be used on a variety of studies, including off of the state highway system.  If there is any potential for a route to become a state highway, expending funds would be legal.

 

In response to Member McClure’s question on whether the earmarked money would be taken away from the state if it is not used, he was told that the money goes back to the federal government if it is not obligated.

 

The consensus of the Subcommittee was to complete the environmental study for approximately $500,000, utilizing the locals’ match first and, if needed, provide state assistance for the remaining match – up to a maximum amount; and then, if possible, use the remaining discretionary funds for right-of-way acquisition.

 

ACTION:  Prepare a proposal as outlined above for the Transportation Board’s consideration – Hutchinson (District 4).  DUE:  December 3, 2004

 

Extension of SH-46, Wendell to Buhl, District 4.  DE Rigby said he has a meeting scheduled with the local officials on the proposal to extend SH-46 to Buhl.  He believes the project is in the locals’ hands.  The memorandum of understanding (MOU) states that if the locals secure the needed right-of-way, the state will assume jurisdiction of the route.  DE Rigby said that after the right-of-way has been acquired, the District will program state-funded projects to bring the road up to acceptable state standards.

 

Mr. Haynes added that one of the local entities has hired a consultant to assist with the right-of-way process.  They are determining how detailed the legal descriptions need to be so they can negotiate with property owners, so progress is being made with the right-of-way.  He believes the local entities are proceeding in good faith.

 

Member Blick concurred that the MOU should be adhered to.  He added that any improvements the local public agencies make to the route at this time should be to state standards.

 

Proposed Relinquishment of SH-79, District 4.  The City of Jerome approached DE Rigby regarding the state’s relinquishment of SH-79, from the I-84 interchange north.  The approximately two-mile section of road was rebuilt in the past four to five years.  The consensus of the group was to have DE Rigby negotiate with the City of Jerome on the state’s relinquishment of SH-79.

 

ACTION:  Negotiate the relinquishment of SH-79 with the City of Jerome; bring a recommendation to the Subcommittee – Hutchinson (District 4).  DUE:  July 2005

 

Twin Falls Alternate Route, District 4.  DE Rigby said Phase I of the Twin Falls Alternate Route project should be under construction by next summer.  The District is entering into agreements with the City of Twin Falls and the impacted highway districts for maintenance of the route after the project is done.  DE Rigby said a complicating factor is that the state is purchasing all of the new right-of-way, and the old right-of-way will be under the locals’ jurisdiction.  He recommended taking the route onto the state’s system and entering into a maintenance agreement with Filer Highway District and Twin Falls Highway District to maintain those sections prior to construction, and an agreement with the City of Twin Falls to maintain that route after construction.  He suggests making this change within the next three or four months to take the route onto the state system and identify it as US-93, but enter into maintenance agreements until final construction is completed before we take on the maintenance and sign it as the main route.  A critical factor is Filer Highway District has a section of road between Pole Line Road and the US-93/US-30 interchange, two miles, that will not handle increased traffic.  It is basically a seal coat on top of gravel.  After the state’s project is completed, that road will be used as a county road, but now ITD needs to make improvements to it so that it will hold up after Stage I is completed and before Stage II is done.  The volume of traffic will increase on that county road as a result of Stage I, but DE Rigby wants agreements with the local entities that they will maintain it as a county road until the construction on the route is done.

 

In response to Member McClure’s question on whether the old US-93 through town will be relinquished after the alternate route is completed, DE Rigby replied that the plan is to not relinquish that route.  The state will maintain it as a business loop through town.  He added that the city is reluctant to add that route to its system.  DE Rigby also mentioned earlier conversations with Director Ekern regarding his philosophy of keeping business routes on the state’s system.

 

ACE-D Hutchinson expressed concern with trailblazing US-93 down Pole Line and 2400 West until it’s ready for state traffic.  He supports helping the locals maintain their routes until the roads are ready to be added to the state’s system.  The consensus of the Subcommittee was to develop an agreement specifying the state’s assistance to the local entities to maintain that road while construction on the Twin Falls Alternate Route is underway.

 

ACTION:  Prepare state/local agreement for 2400 West; and prepare maintenance agreement with City of Twin Falls on the existing US-93 through town – Hutchinson (District 4).  DUE:  April 2005

 

SH-43 and Hitt Road Proposal, District 6.  ACE-D Hutchinson reported that both Bonneville County and the Bonneville Metropolitan Planning Organization have dropped their request to trade SH-43 and Hitt Road.  The locals’ intent is to complete a long-range study and then possibly revisit this proposal.

 

I-84 Business, Nampa, District 3.  Member McClure said that efforts to relinquish US-30 and I-84 Business in Caldwell and Nampa are at a stand still for now.  The City of Nampa did not renew its urban renewal district.

 

SH-64, District 2.  Mr. Haynes reported that Kamiah Highway District is interested in the state’s relinquishment of SH-64.  Historically, the City of Kamiah contracted with the highway district for its city street service; however, Kamiah is now going to take care of its streets.  This change leaves Kamiah Highway District with 18 miles under its jurisdiction, renewing interest in SH-64.  One of the local officials’ biggest concern is the right-of-way, as no plans have been secured.  A draft MOU has been prepared.  Mr. Haynes asked the Subcommittee members to review the proposal and discuss it at the next meeting.

 

 

The meeting adjourned at 4:45 PM.

 

 

 

__________signed_______________

Respectfully submitted by:

SUE S. HIGGINS

Secretary

Idaho Transportation Board

 

Page Last Modified: 12/21/2004 2:26:58 PM

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