Idaho ready to release road use study

Research takes fresh look at how costs are split between big trucks and cars

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Initial results from a study examining how costs of using Idaho’s roads are split between tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles will be unveiled at a Boise meeting later this month.

The study is completed under the direction of the Idaho Transportation Department board in cooperation with the governor’s transportation funding task force.

The research started after a similar study released in 2007 was questioned in part because it was only based on a single year of data, said Mollie McCarty, ITD’s government affairs manager in Boise.

It found that cars and pickup trucks paid $305 million annually and cost $297 million, while tractor-trailers paid $327 million a year and cost $433 million.

The revenue comes primarily from vehicle registration fees and taxes on fuel at the pump, McCarty said.

Owners of pickup trucks and cars pay flat fees for license plates set according to the age of their vehicles. Registrations for tractor-trailers are based on the number of miles they travel each year in Idaho, McCarty said.

The hope is the new study will provide better information than the one in 2007 in part because it will examine six years of data, McCarty said. “Heavy trucks cause more wear and tear on roads and bridges. For the most part, that’s understood.”

The meeting of the governor’s transportation funding task force will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 27 in Garden Level East Wing No. 40 of the Capitol, at 700 W. Jefferson St. in Boise.

How the responsibility for maintaining Idaho’s roads is split is of interest to many north central Idaho residents. The region is bracing for the possibility Imperial Oil will be sending more than 200 oversized loads on U.S. Highway 12 starting in November.

The oil company hopes to ship equipment from Korea to the Port of Lewiston, where it would be transferred to trucks that would take it to Kearl Oil Sands Project in Alberta, Canada. No permits have yet been issued for those trips.

Some of the loads would be largest to use the roadway. ITD officials have been unable to answer questions about how much their agency is spending to process the permits for each of those loads, which would cost about $1,000 a piece. Those fees are set by Idaho code and the state isn’t allowed to profit from the issuance of the permits.

ITD doesn’t expect the big loads to hurt the roads or bridges, but if any damage surfaces that can be seen, another permit wouldn’t be issued until a plan has been created to repair it. Imperial Oil isn’t required to have a bond in place during the hauls.

Williams may be contacted at
[email protected] or (208) 848-2261.