Statement of Ron McMurray
U.S. Highway 95 Coalition
ISTEA Reauthorization
March 22, 1997

Thank you, very much, Senator. It is really nice to have you here back home in Idaho, and we want to thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to have this hearing in Idaho as we get a chance to hear this western perspective. Thank you.

I'm also a member on the board of directors on the Idaho Transportation Coalition, and we are actively involved with a consortium of people who work and live and are very concerned about Highway 95, so I want to direct my remarks specifically to Highway 95.

As you know, U. S. Highway 95 runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, and it enters Idaho in the southern part at the Oregon border, 538 miles it goes north through by the Port of Lewiston and exits at the Canadian border. It almost runs the entire length of Idaho, and is the only, and I mean the only, ground transportation link between north and south.

But not only that, it is also a main street for a number of our towns, especially in North Idaho. And so because of that, because Canada is our largest trade partner, because it connects our only seaport, the Port of Lewiston, and also connects our capital in Boise, you can see this highway is more than just asphalt to us. It is life itself to us here in Idaho.

We are a large state in land mass, but a small state in population. Over 85 percent of Idaho's land is in the public domain. Our small population has fought hard to support an infrastructure which is vastly out of proportion to the acres of privately-owned land in this economy. With Idaho's dedicated funds and with the $90 million from the last ISTEA authorization for U.S. Highway 95, it just becomes a battle that we are losing.

A March 1996 study by the State of Idaho Department of Transportation indicates that it would take over $335 million just to bring this one highway up to a 34-foot minimum standard. Now, this, mind you, is not a four-lane highway. What we are talking about are two lanes that has safe curves and bridges, and it has proper passing lanes. The sum of $335 million is almost 25 percent of the total budget for the State of Idaho.

Being our only north-south highway usage continues to grow, and one of the biggest factors attributed to that growth has been the passing of the NAFTA agreement by the Federal Government. Eastport's custom station located on the Canadian border is experiencing a traffic growth of 1 percent per month. Today one semi-truck clears the border every seven minutes, where just a few years ago it was one every hour. Idaho's non-agricultural exports to Canada have more than doubled in two years to over $245 million in 1995, creating more pressure on Idaho's only north-south highway.

Idaho's seaport, the Port of Lewiston, located 465 river miles from the Pacific Ocean, is on Highway 95, and it has been discovered. You can move a barge load of product from the Port of Lewiston, Lewiston, Idaho, to Tokyo, Japan, for less cost than you can move that same product from Lewiston to Chicago. The Port of Lewiston has seen a 150 percent increase in volume moved through that port over the past five years. That's over a 20 percent increase each year. Presently there are 1185 trucks going in and out of Lewiston, Idaho, each and every day of the year. That's over 430,000 trucks a year.

Now, we welcome the commerce. We welcome the challenge that comes with change and growth, but we just can't do it alone. We need your help. If we can't do something soon, we will lose this commerce due to failed infrastructure or worse yet, we will lose precious lives.

The conditions of U.S. Highway 95 and increased traffic created a safety issue. Over the last five reportable years fatalities on U. S. Highway 95 accounted for ten percent of the total fatalities of the state while U.S. Highway 95 represents only 1 percent of the total road miles in the state of Idaho.

Some insurance companies are recommending that their commercially insured not use Highway 95. Some commercial carriers actually entirely discontinued all operations on all or part of U.S. Highway 95. U.S. Highway 95 may be just part of this vast National Highway System, but here in Idaho it is our lifeline and it is our future. We need your help, and we need it now.