The Idaho Senate Tuesday approved what could be the final $162 million in bonding for a set of highway construction projects in Idaho. The money would go to two of the six projects in the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) program, which has already received close to $700 million in bonds.
“We’ve paid for the environmental, we’ve paid for the design, it’s time to build the road,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint. The Senate approved the GARVEE bond on a 26-9 vote.
The money would allow the Idaho Transportation Department to wrap up work on U.S. Highway 95 from Garwood to Sagle in north Idaho and Idaho Highway 16 from I-84 to Emmett in southwest Idaho. ITD has already spent $82 million buying land and planning for the two projects.
In previous years, GARVEE bonding authority has been a heated issue, but Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, was the only other lawmaker to debate the plan. She said that the projects should be finished, given how much has already been spent, but raised concerns about similar infrastructure plans for the future.
“If we do see much more of this, we should tread very carefully,” Stennett said.
The GARVEE program issues bonds for construction projects, which are then repaid by future highway construction money from the federal government. In the next budget, ITD is expecting to pay $50 million in debt service on current GARVEE bonds, $4 million of which comes from state highway construction money, which comes from the state gas tax and vehicle registration fees.
Keough said lawmakers would need to take action before ITD could get authority to issue bonds on any of the current GARVEE projects or new roadwork projects.
The four other GARVEE projects are on U.S. Highway 95 near Worley in north Idaho, two projects on I-84 in southwest Idaho, and U.S. Highway 30 from McCammon to Lava Hot Springs in southeast Idaho.
On Tuesday, the Senate also unanimously approved the $562 million budget for ITD. That budget is paid for by state and federal gas tax dollars as well as registration fees.