BOISE — A new bridge across the Snake River near Twin Falls and a new regional Idaho National Guard armory are among the couple dozen projects on a list state officials hope will be considered for inclusion in President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan.
A new Snake River Bridge with an estimated $200 million price tag is one of nine possible road projects on the list Idaho sent to Washington, according to a list provided by Jon Hanian, spokesman for Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.
The project description says a new bridge connecting Twin Falls and Jerome counties would allow for increased interstate commerce and provide another route for freight traffic from southern Idaho and the southwestern U.S. destined for Interstate 84, central Idaho, Montana and Canada.
“As the only main entrance to Twin Falls, Perrine Bridge will likely be at capacity by 2030 and unable to accommodate traffic,” it says. “The existing location of the bridge as the focal entrance to an urban area makes replacing it with a wider bridge unlikely or difficult. The capacity issues are not solved due to the constraints on local access routes.”
The nine road projects were all on a list of projects considered but not approved to be constructed with federally backed bonds during Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s tenure last decade. The new bridge is the only one in the Magic Valley. The others include improvements to Interstate 84 and some of the regional arterials in the Treasure Valley, improvements to U.S. 95 in northern Idaho and improvements to U.S. 20 near Idaho Falls.
The state has also submitted a list of Idaho National Guard-related projects it would like to see funded, including a $20 million armory in Jerome County that would replace the smaller ones in Twin Falls, Jerome, Gooding, Hailey and Burley. The plan as of late 2015 was that the state would provide $5 million for this, the federal government the rest, and the list submitted to D.C. says the state would provide some of the funding and the goal is to build this in 2022.
The state is also requesting support for a field maintenance shop in Twin Falls, which would cost $12 million, again with the state to pay some of the cost. The plan would be to build this in 2023, according to the list Hanian provided. And, the state is requesting funding for a new $5.5 million veterans’ health clinic.
And while it is not on the list the state submitted, some infrastructure consultants involved in the lobbying efforts have recommended federal funding for the Gateway West transmission line that would run from Owyhee County to Wyoming and pass through the Magic Valley, according to APM Reports, which published a list earlier this week of the more than 500 projects that have been submitted by officials in all 50 states.
The Veterans Administration has an outpatient clinic downtown on Second Avenue East. However, the VA has been exploring expansion possibilities in the area – David Wood, director of the Boise Veteran’s Hospital, talked to Twin Falls county commissioners last week about possibly using some space in the county’s main County West office building, said county Commissioner Don Hall.
“We were just exploring the opportunity, if they have any needs for expansion of veterans’ services in any way,” Hall said.
Hall said they didn’t make any decisions, noting that they still don’t know what sort of direction the VA is going to get from the new administration.
“It was nice to talk to him and at least plant those seeds,” Hall said.
It’s hard to say at this point how much it matters that these projects were included on the list, or what their chances of getting funding are — there is no infrastructure bill yet. At the moment Congress is mostly occupied with other issues, including a rollback of much of the Affordable Care Act that passed the House and is now in the Senate and an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign worked with them.
Trump told the Economist magazine in an interview published earlier this week he may seek to link his infrastructure package with his tax cut plan, since Democrats as well as Republicans could support the former. He has said repeatedly that a big infrastructure package would be one of his major priorities, often saying he envisioned a $1 trillion plan. However, there are divisions in D.C. over how much tax money versus how much private investment should be used. Office of Management and Budget Director Nick Mulvaney said in late April that Trump envisioned spending $200 billion in tax dollars with the rest coming from private investment. Mulvaney said the plan wouldn’t be ready till the fall, although Trump said in early May the plan could be ready as soon as within the next few weeks.
Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said he liked that the Trump administration was soliciting so much state input.
“This plan correctly generates infrastructure improvement ideas from the local level ‘ground up’ to Washington, D.C.,” Nothern said. “Transportation, like water, is critical in our state and priority projects are well-represented on this list. Hopefully, we can soon move to writing and debating an infrastructure package in this Congress.”