Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne is thinking big when it comes to
improving the state’s transportation system.
During his State of the State Address Jan. 10, he unveiled
his plan to link regions of the state now isolated from one another. He dubbed
the massive project “Connecting Idaho.”
His goal is to bring the north and south together with a
four-lane highway stretching from the Canadian border to the Treasure Valley.
Kempthorne proposed spending $1.6 billion to fund roadwork
with grant-anticipated revenue vehicle bonds, or GARVEE bonds.
This federal program
allows the state to sell bonds to pay for construction. The sale is based on
the assumption that federal funding in future years would pay off the bonds.
This allows the state to get money needed for the project up front.
The plan’s supporters say that makes the governor’s goal of
building a north-south route feasible in a decade instead of 30 years.
The Idaho Legislature would have to approve those bonds. But
even if it does, many say they’re concerned that the federal money the state
plans to use to repay the debt will dry up.
“That’s spending before you have the money,” Rep. Ken
Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, told The Pocatello Idaho State Journal. “If
something happens and the money doesn’t come, you’re in a predicament.”
“I have a reservation about spending (that type of money.)”
If approved, the largest segment would be a new 56-mile
stretch of four-lane highway from Interstate 84 between Nampa and Meridian to
Central Idaho. It would provide a new, much-improved route from the Treasure
Valley to McCall and North Idaho cities.
Legislation to allow funding through GARVEE bonds for
construction will be introduced during the session that began Jan. 10.