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Canyon County business leaders scold lawmakers over transportation 'inaction'

Leaders from a number of local businesses and civic organizations signed their names to an open letter expressing disappointment in the Legislature for failing to secure additional funding to improve the state's roads and bridges.

<p>Traffic on Interstate 84 in Canyon County usually backs up during the commute hours.</p>

BOISE - Leaders from a number of Canyon County businesses signed their names to an open letter expressing disappointment in the Idaho Legislature for failing to secure significant funding to improve the state's roads and bridges.

The letter from the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce was signed by 21 people, including the CEOs of West Valley Medical Center, the College of Idaho, and several high-profile businesses.

It comes a day after the Senate killed a $320 million transportation funding plan, effectively squashing hope of passing any significant funding proposal to repair the state's deteriorating roads and bridges before the end of the session.

MORE: Idaho Senate kills transportation funding plan

"This continued inaction is crippling the economy of Canyon County and choking future growth," the letter reads. "As some of largest employers and taxpayers in our county, we see the direct damage that this inaction is causing."

The business and civic leaders point specifically to the needed expansion of Interstate 84 between Nampa and Caldwell.

"There are critical improvements that need to be made to I-84," the letter continues. "This stretch of road remains inadequate and over capacity for the more than 40,000 vehicles that use it daily. Resident commute times have doubled over the last few years as Canyon County has seen tremendous population growth."

Lawmakers need to act quickly when it comes to transportation funding, the letter says.

"The Legislature's practice of 'Kicking the can' down the road is simply a recipe for disaster and will directly impact economic growth in our area and the state of Idaho."

The plan killed by the Senate on Wednesday would have used GARVEE bonds to pay for road improvements statewide. Lawmakers said after the 15-20 vote that they could not back a plan that primarily uses bonds to pay for new road projects.

With just days left in the 2017 session, the clock is ticking for lawmakers to pass a funding plan.

RELATED: Bumpy road for highway funding push

The full letter can be read below:

March 23, 2017

Dear Legislator

We are disappointed that the Idaho State Legislature failed to substantially address the issue of transportation funding this year.

This continued inaction is crippling the economy of Canyon County and choking future growth. As some of largest employers and taxpayers in our county, we see the direct damage that this inaction is causing.

The GARVEE bonding program should revert back to the original proposal made by Governor Kempthorne-- meaning freeway expansion all the way to Caldwell.

There are critical improvements that need to be made to I-84. This stretch of road remains inadequate and over capacity for the more than 40,000 vehicles that use it daily. Resident commute times have doubled over the last few years as Canyon County has seen tremendous population growth. This brings increased gasoline and vehicle maintenance costs as well.

The legislature must begin to look to the future when it comes to transportation funding. The communities in motion report by COMPASS estimates that by 2040 the Treasure Valley will be home to 1 million residents and that the majority of commercial and residential expansion will take place in Canyon County.

The Legislature's practice of "Kicking the can" down the road is simply a recipe for disaster and will directly impact economic growth in our area and the state of Idaho.

It is incumbent upon you to pass meaningful legislation on transportation funding—funding that expands I-84 all the way to Caldwell—before the 2017 legislative session is complete.

Sincerely,

Betsy Hunsicker, CEO, West Valley Medical Center
George Crookham, CEO, Crookham Company
Scott Gipson, President, The Caxton Printers
Jim Thomssen, In-Coming Chairman of the Board, Caldwell Chamber of Commerce
John McGee, President, The McGee Group
Gregg Alger, Owner, Huston Vineyards
Mark Schmitt, Owner, D & B Supply
Gary Weaver, Owner, Farmer's Insurance
Brett Bausher, Owner, Canyon Small Animal Hospital
Gary Multanen, Owner, Best Bath Systems
Bob Jenkins, Owner, Valli Information Systems
Bill Moad, Simplot Transportation,
Stacy Ward, General Manager, Best Western Plus Caldwell Inn & Suites
Bob Carpenter, Owner, Carpenter Screen Printing & Embroidery
Dr. Charlotte Borst, President, The College of Idaho
Nate McKnight, Plant Manager, Darigold
Kim Deugan, ED, Advocates Against Family Violence
Mike Durning, Chamber of Commerce Board Member
Matt Davison, Idaho Press Tribune
Sam Pauley, Dennis Dillon, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram
Theresa Hardin, Executive Director, Caldwell Chamber of Commerce


Theresa Hardin, IOM
Executive Director
Caldwell Chamber of Commerce
(208) 459-7493 or (208) 724-6278