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Idaho Transportation Board Subcommittee on

 

Adjustments to the State Highway System

 

July 30, 2002

 

 

Transportation Board Vice Chairman Jack Combo and Member Monte C. McClure, Local Highway Technical Assistance Council Administrator Joe Haynes, Assistant Chief Engineer of Development (ACE-D) Steve Hutchinson, Transportation Planning Administrator Charles Rountree, Senior Transportation Planner Garry Young, and Secretary to the Board Sue Higgins, met at 9 AM on Tuesday, July 30 at the Transportation Department, Boise.  Board Member Gary Blick and several District 3 personnel were also present.

 

Banks to Lowman Highway.  District 3 Engineer (DE) Pamela Lowe briefed the Subcommittee on an earlier meeting with Boise County officials regarding the feasibility of the state assuming jurisdiction of the Banks to Lowman Highway.  She expressed concern with the rock scaling issue, as there are no funds programmed for that costly project.  She added that there is a project in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program to chip seal the route.  Other concerns include waste sites, snow removal, and the resources that will be required to maintain the highway.  It is estimated that four full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, equipment, a maintenance shed, and approximately $1,000,000 annually will be required to maintain the route.  Additionally, about $12 million in improvements will be needed to bring the county road up to state standards.  The location of the maintenance shed is also an issue.  Because of the time-consuming process to obtain legislative approval for additional FTEs, buildings, and etc., DE Lowe questioned the feasibility of paying Boise County to maintain the route in the interim.

 

Member Blick expressed concern with the costs to assume jurisdiction of the Banks to Lowman Highway and the difficulty to maintain it.  He asked if the state could help defray the County’s costs, but leave the route on the local system.  The consensus of the group was that providing state funds to Boise County for maintenance of a local road would not be feasible.

 

Meeting with Boise County Officials.  At 9:30 AM, Boise County Commissioners and officials joined the meeting.  Commissioner John Foard thanked DE Lowe and her staff for the assistance they have provided to the County.  He commended ITD for the good relationship that has been established with the County.  Boise County would like to relinquish the Banks to Lowman Highway to the state by October 1; however, the Commissioners understand that may not be feasible.  The County would be willing to maintain the route for the state, with the understanding that ITD would reimburse the County for the maintenance costs.

 

Member McClure emphasized the serious funding issues ITD is facing and also acknowledged the County’s limited resources.  If the County were to maintain the route for the state, it would have to enhance its current maintenance activities and ensure that maintenance was performed to the state’s specifications.  Member McClure added that there are other matters to address in addition to maintenance.  DE Lowe elaborated on some of those, such as noxious weeds, guttering, rock fences, and guardrail improvements.  Boise County contracts the guardrail work, and she asked for an estimate of those costs.  Boise County Road Department Administrative Assistant Marilyn Newman replied that the guardrail contractor performs on an as-needed basis and the costs average around $8,000 annually.  Dan Nyberg, Road Superintendent, added that the County conducts rock runs about two times per day.  Assistant District 3 Engineer (ADE) Jeff Miles believes the state may need to perform more rock runs.

 

DE Lowe questioned the County’s relationship with the Corps of Engineers.  It appears that the County is able to obtain 404 permits to address rockslides in the river without much delay.  Mr. Nyberg concurred that the County has a good working relationship with the Corps.  DE Lowe is concerned that the state would be held to a higher level when slides occur in the river, and it may not be as easy for ITD to get the required permits.  Additionally, when slides occur, the state is not eligible for Emergency Relief funds Federal Emergency Management Assistance funds unless the damage is over $700,000; whereas, the County is eligible for reimbursement for declared emergencies of a lesser amount via Federal Emergency Management Assistance funds..  She also expressed concern that no rock fall mitigation projects have been programmed by Western Federal Lands.

 

Commissioner Foard realizes it would be costly to bring the Banks to Lowman Highway up to the state’s standards; however, he believes it may be more costly to leave the road under local jurisdiction.  The County does not have sufficient resources to properly maintain the route; therefore, the road is deteriorating and will be more costly to upgrade to state standards the longer it remains under County ownership.  He added that the programmed chip seal project will help preserve the road surface.

 

Because the cost to bring the route up to state standards is approximately $12 million and additional manpower and equipment will be needed to maintain it, Vice Chairman Combo suggested looking at the feasibility of adding the Banks to Lowman Highway to the state highway system in segments over a period of time.  For example, he said the state could add the portion from SH-55 to Garden Valley to its system first.  Commissioner Roger Jackson questioned the segment from SH-21 west, approximately half of the way.  DE Lowe commented that the majority of traffic is on the west end of the route.  Commissioner Foard believes relinquishment of the route in segments may be a reasonable approach, but believes it would be better for the state to assume jurisdiction of the route from SH-21 to Garden Valley first.  ITD’s Lowman maintenance facility may be able to manage the additional mileage.

 

The general consensus of the group was to review the feasibility of the County’s relinquishment of the Banks to Lowman Highway to the state in segments, with a proposed schedule for this transaction.  Vice Chairman Combo asked the District to prepare cost estimates for logical segments of this route.

 

Member Blick asked for clarification on the state’s costs if the County would maintain the route, as this would eliminate the Department’s need for an additional maintenance shed, equipment, and FTEs.  Commissioner Foard said the County’s annual maintenance costs are approximately $340,000 on that road.  Those costs would increase if the County were required to maintain the highway to state standards because it would need more equipment and manpower.

 

Member McClure emphasized that the Banks to Lowman Highway rates high enough to be a state highway and the Board has acknowledged that.  He is concerned with the resources needed to add this route to the state’s system and because of the zero sum game.  There are routes in the state that do not rate as state highways, but ITD cannot relinquish mileage without the impacted local public agencies’ concurrence.

 

Commissioner Foard reiterated the County’s dire financial situation, but acknowledged the benefits of the Craig/Wyden bill, which resulted in approximately $1.3 million to Boise County annually.  Some of those funds go to education and forests, and about $850,000 is available for roads and bridges; however, that bill will expire in four years.  He expressed concern with the 3% cap on levies that is hindering the County’s financial ability to address growing infrastructure needs.  The County has about 280 miles on its system and receives approximately $850,000 from the Highway Distribution Account annually.  Commissioner Foard recognizes the need to maintain the Banks to Lowman Highway, but said that the County does not have the resources to do that.

 

Member McClure mentioned an earlier discussion the Board had with Valley County Commissioners on funding sources and the concerns with the 3% cap.  He told the Boise County Commissioners that the Board would be willing to support a local effort to address the ad valorum tax before the legislature.

 

Mr. Haynes believes the next steps are to develop a plan to bring the Banks to Lowman Highway up to state standards and to determine the estimated annual maintenance costs of that route.  Vice Chairman Combo added that staff should also review the feasibility of adding the route to the state highway system in segments.  Mr. Haynes suggested applying for smaller projects in the amount of $800,000 to $1 million in the Forest Highway Program.  A review of the rock fall mitigation needs should be reviewed and a determination made on the priority of smaller projects.  Mr. Haynes added that STP-Local Rural funds and the Rural Highway Investment Program are also available for projects on the local system, and suggested utilizing those funding sources for smaller rock fall mitigation projects.  ACE-D Hutchinson said that fencing projects might be smaller projects that could be funded.  Staff will obtain updated costs on fencing projects.

 

Commissioner Foard would like a commitment from ITD on its intent to assume jurisdiction of the Banks to Lowman Highway before the County actively seeks funding for rock fall mitigation projects.  Vice Chairman Combo reiterated the Board’s acknowledgement that the Banks to Lowman Highway should be on the state highway system and suggested developing a schedule for the transfer of ownership.

 

Commissioner Jackson would like the relinquishment completed by the time the Craig/Wyden bill expires.  Commissioner Foard asked for ITD’s assistance in applying for funding, as the County does not have the expertise that the state has.  District staff will help with this effort.  Commissioner Dale Hanson questioned starting the transfer of the road at the east end, as the west end has the higher traffic count.  He acknowledged that the east end is more difficult to maintain because of the rock fall problem, but that portion does not have a high average daily traffic count.

 

Member McClure stated that the Department would strive for a good faith effort to ensure Boise County that it is committed to assuming jurisdiction of the Banks to Lowman Highway based on an acceptable schedule.  Because more funding sources are available if the road is on the local system, the highway should be brought up to state standards before it is relinquished.  Commissioner Foard thanked the Subcommittee members for the meeting and for their consideration on this important issue.

 

District staff will attempt to have preliminary information on rock fall mitigation projects, various costs, and the feasibility of the County’s relinquishment of this route to the state in segments by the September Board meeting.  The Board is tentatively scheduled to travel this route on its tour of District 3 on September 26.

 

The Boise County officials left the meeting at this time.

 

The Subcommittee members summarized the issues that staff needs to follow up on:

  1. Determine smaller rock fall mitigation projects to complete: Hutchinson*
  2. Review possible programming of rock fall mitigation projects and pursue funding (including through Tri-Agency): Hutchinson/Haynes*
  3. Determine feasibility and issues of adding route to state system in segments: Hutchinson*
  4. Prepare cost estimates for transferring the route in segments – improving to state standards and annual maintenance costs: Hutchinson*
  5. Prepare draft schedule of bringing road up to state standards (in segments) and draft schedule to transfer route in segments: Hutchinson*
  6. Prepare draft MOU with Boise County on transfer of route: Hutchinson
  7. Review conditions of 404 permits - whether Direct Federal has responsibilities or long-term commitments regarding highway: Hutchinson*
  8. Start preparing a legislative package for the additional FTEs, building, and equipment that will be needed: Hutchinson

 

*Preliminary information for the September 26 Board tour, if possible.

 

 

The meeting adjourned at 11:15 AM.

 

 

 

__________signed_______________

Respectfully submitted by:

SUE S. HIGGINS

Secretary

Idaho Transportation Board

Page Last Modified: 1/3/2005 2:46:37 PM

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