Officials in Idaho discuss road funding challenges

| 9/9/2008

The Idaho Transportation Funding Conference met recently to discuss the challenges of funding for roads and bridges in the state.

The conference was composed of transportation experts, lawmakers and other officials. They discussed the state’s need for a $240 million yearly increase in transportation funding to offset a growing shortfall.

The group was told that 20 percent of highway miles in Idaho are “deficient.” That same percent of bridges in the state exceed their 50-year life span.

Possible solutions include boosting fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. The primary funding sources for roads and bridges in the state have not changed in more than a decade.

Other factors that are contributing to the funding crunch include fewer federal dollars available for states and escalating costs for road building materials.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is facing a deficit that could result in the loss of millions for states, if nothing changes. Idaho relies on the federal government for nearly half of its transportation funding.

Another contributing factor for fewer dollars being available for road and bridge work is the cost of construction materials continues to rise. In the past decade, steel, asphalt and concrete costs have skyrocketed.

To make matters worse, escalating costs for gas and diesel are resulting in fewer vehicle miles traveled. As a result, it is eating into the state’s revenue generated from fuel taxes.

Any solutions for transportation funding in the state can be considered during the regular session that begins in January 2009.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Idaho in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor