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Transportation agencies cite expense, safety for not putting project costs on road signs

Transportation agencies cite expense, safety for not putting project costs on road signs

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
June 29, 2010

Two of the largest transportation-related government agencies in the state, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and the Ada County Highway District (ACHD), choose not to put the costs of road projects on highway signs.  ITD doesn't put the information on project signs due to safety concerns, while ACHD says that putting the information on the signs would prove too costly.

June Sparks, spokesperson for ITD, said that her department has strict policies that determine what can be displayed on roadway signs.  The only signs that ITD currently allows that broach the topic of funding are the GARVEE signs, which indicate to drivers that the project at which the sign is located is paid for by Idaho Legislature-approved bonds.  Sparks said that she previously requested to install signs informing drivers of the various social media tools ITD uses to keep drivers informed about road conditions, but was rejected because of ITD policy.  "ITD considers signs to be a distraction. Other than directional information signs, and overhead signs with simply-stated safety information, we don’t do them," Sparks told IdahoReporter.com.

ACHD, which maintains roads in and around Boise, Eagle, and Meridian, chooses not to put project costs on road signs for a different reason: to save money.  Robbie Johnson, spokesperson for ACHD, says that because project costs vary greatly as work proceeds, the department would have to constantly update the signs, an expense that the agency doesn't want to bear.  "The cost information on signs can be tough since the bigger the project, the bigger the variance on the cost can be from the initial budgeted amount, and we don’t want to always be updating the signs," said Johnson.  People who want information about projects, noted Johnson, typically don't ask about cost, but about other aspects of construction work.  "ACHD does put information about who is doing the work, contact info and when it will be done – and that’s consistently been the information requested by the public, not the cost of the job," Johnson explained.

ACHD has, however, started letting drivers know when some projects are financed by recent increases in car registration fees.  When voters went to the polls in Ada County in November of 2008 to approve higher registrations fees for cars, they approved approximately an addition $4 million in yearly revenue for ACHD to use on road construction improvements, as well as community programs that enhance pedestrian and cycling access.  Johnson said that the new signs are showing where drivers' money is going.

For those who are curious about the cost the latest bridge reconstruction or paving project, Sparks and Johnson say there are ways to obtain cost information.  To access financial specifications on state projects by ITD, Sparks directs inquires to the department’s "Projects" portion of its website.  For those in the Ada County area, residents can call Johnson directly at (208) 387-6228.

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