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Idaho roads struggling to keep up with population growth

March 1, 2019

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Idaho roads need more attention as the state population grows, according to a study published by a group of civil engineers.

The Post Register reports Idaho’s branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state’s bridges a “D″ grade and dams and water infrastructure a “C″ grade. Idaho’s roads came in at a “C-” according to the study, which was published last year.

Finding the money to maintain Idaho’s existing infrastructure has long been a problem for the state, with a transportation revenue shortfall of more than $406 million last year according to the Idaho Transportation Department’s annual report.

Local road improvement projects are funded by various sources, including federal and state grants and resident taxes. Laila Kral, a deputy administrator at the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council, says budgets are short.

“There’s not enough money to keep up maintenance with existing infrastructure or expand to accommodate the added users and keep up with the growth that we’ve seen in Idaho,” Kral said.

According to the Idaho Transportation Department’s 2018 fiscal year report, over the past five years the number of licenced drivers in Idaho grew by 7 percent, vehicle registrations grew 11.6 percent and the tons of freight moved throughout the state grew by 10.6 percent. Idaho’s population has grown by 5.5 percent during the same time span.

Many cities are feeling growing pains as traffic congestion increases. Kent Fugal, city engineer for Idaho Falls, says the city is focusing transportation spending on road maintenance such as sealcoating, overlay and road reconstruction projects.

“There are some improvements that I would love to make that we probably can’t make because of the high cost to not only the city’s bottom line financially but to individual property owners that would be impacted,” Fugal said.

“Our most pressing needs are really to maintain what we have, to preserve the good condition that most of our roads are in,” Fugal said. “It becomes much, much more costly to fix roads once they get bad than it does to try to keep them in good condition.”

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