Commissioners Making Strides for Banks-Lowman to Become a State Maintained Highway Again
There are new updates regarding the progress of turning the Banks-Lowman Highway back to be a state maintained road. District 2 County Commissioner, Alan Ward, has been instrumental in this process and meeting with the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD). At a most recent meeting on October 22, 2015, he was joined by BC Prosecuting Attorney Jolene Maloney, BC Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jay Rosenthal and BC Road Department Manager Bill Jones.
Ward discussed the Banks-Lowman Road with ITD. He said that it should not be a burden to the Boise County taxpayers to provide matching funds for the rock mitigation project that is required for the state to take over the road and its maintenance. He pointed out to ITD that the road is primarily used by out of county commerce, log trucks and vendors and tourists. It was verified in ITD Executive White Papers that Resolution ITB 04-13 in March of 2004 concluded that the Board felt the 33.4 mile route was functioning as a state highway and anticipated to do so in the future.
In 2004, there was an agreement made with Boise County and ITD that did not require matching funds to complete the rock mitigation. However, there were things that still needed to be done to release the first segment, such as Davey’s Bridge, signage, guardrails and a few other things. This was the first segment which is Banks to the Garden Valley Airport. Segment two ends near Pine Creek turnoff to Deadwood and segment three ends at Hwy. 21 in Lowman. Everything changed when the federal government required a match.
Rock mitigation on segment three was once a 5 million dollar project. Now the cost is 50-60 million dollars. The county would need to match funds of 7 ¾% or over 5 million dollars. The county does not have funds to do the match. Ward feels the state has a little more revenue opportunity to do the match since the fuel tax and registration hikes were implemented July 1st, 2015. This money is specifically earmarked for road funding.
“What we learned at the meeting was ITD is interested in doing that,” said Ward. ITD can use state money to work on a state road. A past ITD Cooperative Agreement was to only take the first segment over. The current Commissioners want ITD to take the whole Banks-Lowman Road. Ward feels they have good traction with the ITD now by showing that it is unrealistic for a county with less than 7,000 residents to pay for a road that is functioning like a state highway.
ITD requires continuous easements along the highway. The Prosecuting Attorney and Boise County Assessor Chris Juszczak have been mapping these easements and getting details when they are not doing their regular job since the county cannot afford to hire this out to be done. Juszczak stated “They are mostly small easements but the work is done finding those gaps in 13 ½ “. The next step is for Rosenthal to obtain Quiet Titles for closing the easement gaps. He says his hope is that “soon” this work will be done and meet ITD’s requirements.
Another key ingredient discovered is that there is a piece of property outside of Garden Valley that could be a rock waste site that is desired by ITD. It is 40 acres owned by Dept. of Fish and Game. F&G does not want the land and so ITD could do a simple land swap with F&G because they want that land for rock waste. Ward met in late October with an Engineer from the State of Idaho, and two Engineers from the Federal Government. The Federal Government encouraged the two state agencies, ITD and ID Fish and Game, to do an exchange. There does not have to bidding, but they do have to do an appraisal that is being done now.
This waste site would be for the use of highway maintenance only and would not be visible from the highway. Ward hopes the ITD will take this piece of property and it has to be a waste site in the agreement. “We do not have anything else like this,” and Ward said, “This is a godsend. So if that happens then a major hurdle is cleared as to why ITD did not want that section up there. This is huge”.
“So we are making definite gains to get this resolved,” says Ward. “I want to get our legislators, who set the budget every year for the ITD to say they will take a million dollars for the next 5 years and put it towards the Bank-Lowman Highway. This would set the match money and get the county out of it. This would relieve so much more money for the county to use for our own roads and improvements. That is my goal.”
An effort was made to reach most recent past County Commissioner Jamie Anderson, since she was involved in the Banks-Lowman discussions during her commission. She was unavailable for comment.