The Idaho Transportation Board has approved spending nearly
$1 billion to finance the largest public works project in the state's history.
The amount is about one-third less than originally planned because of rising
"This investment will dramatically improve safety, reduce
congestion and create jobs," Frank Bruneel, chairman of the Idaho
Transportation Board, said in a written statement. "The plan addresses the most
immediate needs on each of the corridors while keeping within the budget we
The price tag of the highway corridor projects has increased
to about $1.6 billion, up from about $1.2 billion approved a year ago.
Costs associated with building materials, including asphalt,
concrete and steel, were cited for the $400 million increase. Also playing a
part in the increased costs is the competition for labor and materials for
construction projects around the nation, specifically in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. The building boom in China also is playing a part in higher costs.
Meanwhile, credit-rating agencies and bond advisers in Idaho recommended that the state scale back its "Connecting Idaho" road-building
expectations to just under $1 billion. They're concerned that the state could
lose its strong bond rating if officials ask for too much money.
The improvements will be paid for by borrowing against
federal funds that the state is to receive.
"We had to make some difficult tradeoffs and reduce the
scope of the projects," Bruneel said. "Soaring construction and lands costs
have limited what we can do. But we are still addressing the most important and
needed elements of the projects."
The Idaho Legislature will make final decisions on how to
spend the money during the regular session that begins in January 2007.