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Press Endorsement: Yes to vehicle fee proposal

| October 18, 2020 1:00 AM

With great respect to the many Kootenai Countians on limited incomes, The Press strongly supports the ballot initiative calling for an increase in vehicle fees to help pay for a dozen important infrastructure projects.

The fee would last 20 years. It would add $50 to the annual bill for registering a car or truck, and $25 for motorcycles. Despite supporters’ website — 14centsaday.com — suggesting anybody can afford fifty bucks a year, we know this ask isn’t insignificant. So many things are going up $50 or more a year, essentials like groceries, medications and clothing. Add them all up and it can be a challenge for some people to make ends meet.

But we believe this proposal is close to an essential for all who drive our roads and highways, which are largely insufficient for today’s volumes, let alone the masses who will call North Idaho home over the next two decades.

As former Idaho Lt. Gov. Jack Riggs opined on Tuesday, this is a question of local control. Those of us who have waited, waited and waited some more for our legislators and federal officials to invest in faltering North Idaho infrastructure are running out of both time and patience. Joe Biden is promising heavy investment in infrastructure, just as President Trump did when he was seeking office, but not much has been done so far and there’s certainly no guarantee Biden will fulfill his pledge if elected.

And officials deciding the order and investment amount of road projects around the state are likely to give preference to southern Idaho’s interests. Which leaves us in Kootenai County pretty much on our own to solve this problem.

That’s what the vehicle fee will do.

It will generate millions of dollars that can be leveraged against other funds to address some of our most serious road and bridge needs over the next 20 years. Primary targets include widening Interstate 90 to six lanes from State Line to Coeur d’Alene; a four-lane Huetter corridor divided highway with limited access; Prairie Avenue reconstruction and similar improvements with lane expansions on Pleasant View Road, Hayden Avenue, Pole Line Road, Atlas Road, as well as the U.S. 95 bridge over the Spokane River.

Other worthy projects await your approval as part of this proposal. Is it perfect? No. Could the timing be a little better? Possibly. But the infrastructure to-do list for Kootenai County has grown moss, with little likelihood of that moss getting mowed by a state gas tax hike with a big chunk headed this way anytime soon.

We agree that an alternative that would raise money from non-residents who drive here would be ideal, but no such option has presented itself. The proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot is the best shot we’ve got to take control of a serious deficiency and tackle it head-on, starting right away.

Please join us in making our roads and highways safer and much more efficient. Vote “yes” on the vehicle fee ballot option.