McGee wants to use GARVEE bonds for bridges


Tom Schultz, director of the Idaho Department of Lands, told a legislative interim committee that investments from the endowment lands produced a record return in fiscal year 2014.

Idaho Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, wants state lawmakers and road builders to consider using untapped bonding authority to fix aging bridges across the state. McGee introduced the idea in a Senate committee Monday, though lawmakers won’t take up the issue until next year.

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is planning to finish six projects in the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) program in the next year. Those projects were built with more than $800 million in bonds that will be repaid with a share of Idaho’s federal funding for roads during the next few decades. However, ITD has $143 million on GARVEE bonding authority it won’t spend, which McGee wants to put toward repairing or replacing bridges.

“This would allow for those GARVEE dollars to be used on bridges across the state of Idaho that are in much need of repair,” McGee said when introducing the legislation. He said he won’t ask for a full hearing on the plan during the final few days of the legislative session. “This is the beginning of the discussion.”

If the bridges funding idea resurfaces next year, it could face some problems. During debate on GARVEE bonding earlier this year, several lawmakers said they supported it because it was the final piece of bonding. Also, some lawmakers could ask for using additional GARVEE bonds for other road projects.

McGee said bridges are a priority for roadwork. “Our bridges are really in disrepair and if we don’t do something soon we will start to have some problems,” he said.

A recent report from the coalition Transportation for America found that one of every 11 bridges in Idaho – a total of 373 bridges – is structurally deficient.

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Idaho has $143 million in GARVEE bonds that isn't set to be used, Idaho has $143 million in GARVEE bonds that isn't set to be used
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