ISTEA projects have been used across the state of Idaho to support important local alternative transportation projects and enhancing the transportation experience.
Over the last five years Idaho has provided ISTEA grants through a competitive process in which local and state government apply to an advisory committee which makes recommendations to the State Transportation Board.
The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has been successful in getting some ISTEA grants which have had a significant impact on the state parks system. I would like to review some examples of important projects which have been awarded to local and state government.
COEUR D'ALENE LAKE DRIVE BIKE PATH
The Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive Bike Trail Project was sponsored by the Idaho Transportation Department and was obligated in fiscal year 1994. The five-mile long, ten-foot wide pathway was created using the right-of-way from a section of Temporary 1-90. This road went from four lanes to two and the remaining space has been used to create a separated bike/walking trail. The enhancement project built the trail, exercise stations, and public restrooms. The pathway is extremely popular, with over 14,000 people using the path each month during the summer.
In a cooperative agreement with the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation the maintenance of the pathway has been assumed by the IDPR. The total cost of the project was approximately $1.1 million, with enhancement funds paying for 80 percent of the project and state funds paying for 20 percent.
DIVERSION DAM BICYCLE REST AREA
The Diversion Dam Bicycle Rest Area Project was sponsored by the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department and was obligated in fiscal year 1994. The project provides a much needed all season rest area for recreational and commuter bicyclists, hikers and those roller-blading on this heavily traveled section of the Boise River Greenbelt. The Boise River Greenbelt extends through downtown Boise to Lucky Peak Dam, providing almost 20 miles of continuous pathway. The particular stretch where the RA has been located lacked any type of public facilities. IDPR will maintain this facility. The total cost of the project was approximately $ 120,000 with enhancement funds paying for 80 percent of the project and IDPR paying for 20 percent.
OREGON TRAIL AT JUNCTION US-30, MONTPELIER
The National Oregon Trail Center is located in the town of Montpelier, in southeast Idaho. The project was sponsored by the City of Montpelier and was obligated in fiscal year 1996. The Center which is nearing completion is a 30,000-square-foot facility housing a museum, interpretative and visitor ~~~~~~rest stop, and office space. The museum will contain displays depicting the struggles of Oregon Trail travelers and early Mormon pioneers who came to the Bear Lake Valley in 1863, exhibit western art and firearms, and contain a gift shop. The U.S. Forest Service will rent office space in the building. The proceeds from the rental will pay for building utilities and security and janitorial services. Construction on the building began in the summer of 1996, and occupancy of the office space portion of the building is expected late this March.
Without the cooperative and persistent efforts of many individuals, private organizations, and government agencies the Center would not have become a reality. Funds for architectural consulting fees and nearly $500,000 in local matching funds were obtained through fund- raising campaigns conducted by the Oregon Trail Museum Center, Inc., through individual donations and from in-kind contributions, such as water line installation and excavation work done by the City of Montpelier and Bear Lake County. This local money plus approximately $1.1 million in federal enhancement funds have been used to build the Museum.
The Center is truly the product of a multi-jurisdictional, public-private partnership. It will not only enrich the experience of the traveling public, thus fulfilling the purpose of the enhancement dollars appropriated by Congress and awarded by the Idaho Transportation Board, but also provide significant benefits to the local community in the form of an attractive new building, cultural focus, and economic stimulation.
DRIGGS TO VICTOR BIKE PATH
The Driggs to Victor Bike Path Project was obligated in fiscal year 1996 and will be completed this summer and ready for use in August. The bike path will be 7.4 miles long and parallels SH33. Culverts, bridge sub- structures, and the clearing and grubbing for the path were completed last summer and fall. Approximately 2 miles of the pathway will be a bike lane on SH33 with the remainder running parallel but separated from the roadway. Located in southeastern Idaho, Driggs and Victor are recreation destinations and provide access to the Teton Mountains. The project will cost approximately $680,000.00 with enhancement funds paying for 80 percent of the project and state funds paying for 20 percent. The project was sponsored by the Idaho Transportation Department.
Projects such as these do a great deal to enhance our quality of life and improve transportation systems.
We need to encourage Idahoans to use alternative transportation in our urban areas in order to avoid the grid lock congestion so many people have moved to Idaho to escape.
For instance in Boise, for Park Center Blvd. a recent consultants report commissioned by the County highway authority indicates that on an A to F scale the best traffic flow is projected to be in 10 years is a D. And that will entail building at least two more four lane bridges across the river significantly impacting local aesthetics and natural values.
Meanwhile, the green belt, which has significantly expanded thanks to ISTEA funds, offers an alternative for more and more Boisians who commute to work by walking, bicycling, or in wheel chairs. ISTEA funds are needed in order to continue to expand the greenbelt system, support the construction of bike lanes, and allow children to commute safely to schools in this busy urban area.
ROADS AND BRIDGES
There is little doubt that Idaho needs funds to support its road and bridge infrastructure. We are constantly battling with the deteriorating roads and bridges in Idaho's state parks. The needed repairs/renovation of these roads/bridges often surpasses our internal budgeting capability and, as a result, we are forced to let some roads deteriorate past an acceptable condition. If ISTEA is reauthorized, we hope to submit grant applications which will help renovate and construct roads/bridges/bikeways into the state parks system.
Finally, there is the portion of the funds which are used to enhance the transportation experience. It seems as though each year the thousands of lives lost on our nations highways go unnoticed. We need support facilities which will encourage people to take that needed break from driving in order to refresh their reaction times and drive more safely.
NATIONAL R~ECREATIONAL TRAILS FUND
Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation
Idaho has 18,700 miles of summer-use trails and 6,400 miles of winter use trails which is one of the largest trail systems in the country. The United States Forest Service manages 96% of the trails in Idaho. Most of the trails are managed as multiple use trails whether they are motorized, non-motorized, or a combination of both. Idaho has very few single use trails. Most single use trails in Idaho are either interpretative, cross country ski or snowmobile trails.
The National Recreational Trails Fund is critical to keeping Idaho's trails open. Idaho has one of the largest backlogs of trail maintenance and reconstruction in the country. The 1993 Idaho Trails Plan found that Idaho has a $40 million backlog of trail maintenance and reconstruction. Despite having one of the largest backlogs of trail maintenance and reconstruction in the country, Idaho has only a limited amount of trail maintenance and reconstruction funds. In 1992, Idaho's trail managing agencies spent $7.3 million on trail maintenance and reconstruction. The Forest Service estimated that it would take $20 million per year to just keep pace with Idaho's trail maintenance needs. This limited amount of funds means that many trails in Idaho can wait up to three years to receive basic removal of downfall. A lack of trail maintenance and reconstruction funding is the primary reason for the disappearance of Idaho's trails. With a large backlog, finding places to allocate NRTF funding is easy, but, the overwhelming requests make it difficult for our advisory committee to decide.
The National Recreational Trails Fund in Idaho is managed by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Trails Program. The Trails Program Coordinator is responsible for day to day management of the fund. These duties include evaluating grant applications for eligibility, conducting grant workshops, inspecting completed projects, completing NRTF billings, and working with Idaho's National Recreational Trails Fund Advisory Committee.
Idaho's National Recreational Trails Fund Advisory Committee composed of statewide representatives for Hiking, Cross-Country Skiing, Off-Highway Motorcycling, Snowmobiling, Equine, All Terrain Vehicles, Bicycling, Four Wheel Drive, Water Trail and People with Disabilities. The makeup of this committee closely reflects National Committee. The committee members are appointed by the Idaho Park and Recreation Board. This committee members duties include:
1. Attend one NRTF Advisory Committee annually.
2. Attend and participate in Idaho Park and Recreation Board meetings as requested by Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) staff.
3. Assist prospective sponsors with the grant request process.
4. Review prospective project locations and provide input to project sponsors on project design.
5. Keep current on needs, desires, and attitudes of trail users statewide.
Idaho has an efficient, simple process for allocating National Recreational Trails Fund moneys. On the first of October, the IDPR Recreation Bureau sends out a notice to all prospective grant application for all the Recreation Bureau programs, announcing that the application deadline for all grants is the last Friday in January and that the bureau will be conducting grant workshops around the state to assist grant applicants.
The grant workshops are held in November, usually in five different locations in Idaho. The workshops cover the grant application form and instructions. The application form and instructions cover all five grant programs within the Recreation Bureau. In addition, each program such as the National Recreation Trails Fund has a 30 minute work session that describes the specific details of the program. These workshops are very popular with as many as 200 people attending all the workshops.
During the time period between the workshops and the grant application deadline, the Trails Program Coordinator works with prospective applicants in developing successful grant applications. After the deadline passes, the Trails Program Coordinator spends a week reviewing the thirty to forty grant applications for eligibility. The applications are then sent to the committee members, who review the material and meeting in mid-March for the rating of the applications.
Once the applications are rated and reviewed by the National Recreational Trails Fund Advisory Committee, the Trails Program Coordinator prepares a packet to be sent to the Federal Highway Administration and the Idaho Park and Recreation Board. This packet outlines what is proposed for funding for the current fiscal year, and the information on the individual projects to be funded. Usually, the projects are approved by the Idaho Park and Recreation Board at their Spring Board meeting. The Federal Highway Administration approval usually follows within a month of submitting the applications.
In 1996, Idaho received $217,935 in funding, of which $192,160 was spent on projects, $10,739 was spent for safety and education, and $15,036 was spent on administrative costs. The $192,160 funded twenty projects. Thirty percent of the funds ($57,000) were spent on motorized projects, 44% of the funds were spent on multiple use projects, and 26% of the funds were spent on non-motorized projects. Idaho was unable to spend thirty percent on non-motorized projects because of a lack of eligible applications in 1996.
This year, Idaho received $218,303 in funding, of which 192,107 was spent on projects, $10,915 was for spent for safety and education, and $15,281 was spent on administration costs. The $192,107 funded fifteen projects. Thirty percent of the funds ($57,632) were spent on motorized projects, 40% of the funds were spent on multiple projects, and 30% of the funds were spent on non motorized projects.
The fifty percent nonfederal matching requirement presented problems and opportunities in Idaho. Since Idaho doesn't have a substantial dedicated funding source for non-motorized trails, many federal agencies found it difficult to apply for these funds, since their own funds that they are willing to contribute count as federal funds. Technically, all Federal funds (FHWA, USFS, and BLM) count on the Federal side, and the 50% match must be completely non-Federal.
Idaho does have dedicated funds for motorized trails through the Off Road Motor Vehicle Fund, so Idaho was able to help federal agencies with matching requirement. In 1996, of the $132,000 dollars spent on motorized and multiple use projects, Idaho's Off Road Motor Vehicle Fund provided $69,000 in matching non-federal funds. The remaining balance of motorized, multiple use and non-motorized projects were funded through volunteer labor and grants from private organizations. In total, these groups contributed $123,000 towards matching funds. This demonstrates that Idaho trail user organizations and trail managing agencies work in close concert with one another to get projects completed.
An excellent example of this partnership was demonstrated with the Knapp Creek-Valley Creek trail reconstruction project. The project was designed to make: 1) the Knapp Creek portion of the Knapp Creek to Valley Creek loop trail accessible to ATV's and to 2) develop a new trail head in the Basin Creek drainage. The work included rerouting 2.8 miles of trail around wet meadows, replacing 5 culverts, constructing rolling dips over four miles of trail to control erosion, converting 3.2 miles of closed road to an ATV trail, reconstructing the Short Creek bridge, and constructing a parking area.
This project was needed to reduce sedimentation impacts to Basin and Knapp Creeks which are anadromous fish streams. The trails are used by hikers, horsemen, motorcyclists, ATV's, and mountain bikes. Funding for the nonfederal matching funds came from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Motorbike Recreation Account, the National Wildlife Federation Fund, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Horsemen, American Hiking Society and the Treasure Valley Trail Machine Association. In total, these groups contributed $16,412 for a $9,815 National Recreation Trails Fund grant.
Another example of an excellent non-motorized project occurred on the Moose Creek Ranger District. The Moose Creek Ranger District is located in North Central Idaho within the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness, one of the first wilderness areas in the United States. During the winter of 1995-96, North Central Idaho received two rain on snow events, which caused severe flooding throughout the region. This flooding washed out numerous trails inside and outside the wilderness. The Forest Service concentrated its crews on repairing storm/flood damaged trails; however, this left several ridge top trails without any maintenance. In order to accomplish maintenance on these ridge top trails, the Moose Creek Ranger District teamed up with the North Central Backcountry Horsemen of Idaho. The National Recreation Trails Fund provided $9,401 for travel, supplies, and equipment use while the North Central Idaho Backcountry Horsemen provided the labor of maintenance.
Idaho funded several motorized projects. One great example was the snowmobile signing project for the Madison County Snowmobile Program. This program in Eastern Idaho is only a few years old and is lacking signs at many of the intersections of the groomed trails. Much of the country is composed of rolling hills that look very alike. In white out conditions, people unfamiliar with the area can get lost. The Moody Powder Pushers in conjunction with the Madison County Snowmobile Program, designed, manufactured, and placed the signs at the intersections. The National Recreation Trails Fund provided $3,224 for 96 posts and signs. With these signs in place, snowmobilers will have a much easier time finding their way around the groomed snowmobile trails in Madison County.
With a $40 million backlog of trail maintenance and reconstruction that grows every year in Idaho, National Recreation Trails Funds (NRTF) will be needed for quite some time. The NRTF funding for 1996 and 1997 has made a dent in the backlog, but more needs to be accomplished. With a continuation of funding in National Recreation Trails Fund, Idaho can make further progress to reducing the backlog of trail maintenance, and enhancing user cooperation.
Recent weather conditions that took place this last winter devastated many trails in North and Southwest Idaho. Since the snow is still on the ground, we will not know the full effect of the weather events until later this summer. In early December, North Idaho experienced one its worst winter storms in recent history. A two day ice storm closed highways, schools, businesses, and other essential services. In addition to closing highways, the ice overloaded many of the trees in North Idaho, causing them to snap like toothpicks over roads and trails all over North Idaho. The Kootenai County Snowmobile Program spent $40,000 to clear the fallen trees from 245 miles of its snow mobile trail system. This money does not count the thousands of man hours that volunteer snowmobilers spent in helping to clear the system. The Kootenai County snowmobile system is mainly comprised of snow covered forest roads. The effect of the downfallen trees to Idaho's trail system is tremendous. These massive amounts of downfall will make it impossible for Idaho's recreationists to access much of North Idaho's Backcountry. It will take two to four years to totally recover from this massive felling of trees in North Idaho.
In late December, Southwest Idaho experienced a heavy rain on snow event. With the above normal (about 200%) snowpack levels, sent water rushing down Southwest Idaho's streams and rivers. The flood water washed major sections of Idaho's highways. The flooding also has washed out many sections of Southwest Idaho's trails. In addition to the many sections of trail that are washed out, many of trees in Southwest Idaho, weakened by a seven year drought and many years of fire suppression, collapsed under the weight of the heavy snow loads. Some trails may not be accessible for a couple of years, while forest crews and volunteers clear downfall out of the trail.
Further funding of the National Recreational Trails Fund is essential to keeping Idaho's trail system available to recreationists. Without the funding, Idaho's trail maintenance and reconstruction backlog would grow even faster. Enhancing the amount of funding within the National Recreation Trails Fund would allow Idaho to stop or even reduce the backlog of trail maintenance of reconstruction.
The National Recreational Trails Fund is not paid for by highway vehicles. The funds for this program come from four wheel drives, snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles, and motorcycles used off-road. These vehicles use gasoline. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory Study, Fuel used for Off-Highway Recreation, ORNL-6794, estimated that these vehicles consumed 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline in 1992. With a 18.4 cents federal tax per gallon, these vehicles paid $1 73 million annually in federal gasoline taxes. The National Recreational Trails Fund only received $15 million for FY96 and for FY97.
These off-highway vehicle users contribute significantly to the federal highway system, more so than the average vehicle user. In return, these users received only a small portion ($15 million in funding) for their use. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation encourages the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure to consider full contract authority and full funding ($30 million per year) for the National Recreational Trails Fund.