CALDWELL, Idaho — Thanks to rapid population growth, the state of Idaho expects more than 1 million people to be living and working in Ada and Canyon counties by the year 2040. That's why Governor Brad Little is pushing for big investments in transportation to improve the highways for more vehicles on the roads.
With the legislature on recess, Little is canvassing the state to speak with businesses about his transportation plans. He said millions of dollars of investment are needed.
“The internal rate of return on the $80 million is pretty simple that if we do these big projects. The people of Idaho, whether they are commuters, whether they are businesses, whether they are families trying to get to a family event, that savings in time will pay off after the next 20 years," Little said.
Meeting with business leaders in Caldwell at the Capitol Distributing site on Tuesday, Little identified several “unfunded infrastructure needs” in the Treasure Valley, including extending State Highway 16 to connect with Interstate 84, a development of three phases.
“Highway 16 was one of the Connecting Idaho projects we didn’t get finished. But there is a lot of other ones, some of them didn’t’ even exist. We didn’t realize how much more capacity we were going to need on Highway 20. Some old GARVEE and some are new projects, but they’re basically what board members, what the district says is critical for commerce in our area,” Little said.
According to a document Little’s office presented, in 2018 Idaho roads saw 1.8 million daily vehicle trips. By 2040, the number is expected to hit 3 million, a 67 percent increase.
Once the legislature reconvenes on April 6, Little will bring his plan with amended changes to Idaho lawmakers. If they approve the money, the Idaho Transportation Department Board would then have the final say in choosing which projects to focus on.
“The fact that we take this $80 million and bond at a very reasonable rate. The surety of it that contractors know they are going to have jobs, people in the construction industry know they are going to be here. We can bid on these very competitively. We can have a really good strategic long-term plan,” he said.