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KMPO proposes $50 vehicle registration increase

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | September 11, 2020 12:39 AM

The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization is proposing an annual $50 vehicle registration fee initiative on the November ballot to fund road improvements.

If approved by voters, the fee will last for 20 years and is projected to affect nearly 150,000 vehicles.

The new fee would be in addition to current vehicle registration fees.

Glenn Miles, KMPO's executive director, said that since 1969 Kootenai County's population has skyrocketed by 340% to 165,000 today. He said the county is struggling to maintain infrastructure as a result.

Through the $50 fee, KMPO plans to update the county's legacy transportation system that, in some areas, hasn't seen significant improvements since the 1960s. Due to the age of the streets and increased usage, Miles said Kootenai's highways and roads are experiencing problems.

"The I-90 is considered by federal highways to have the worst travel time reliability," Miles said. "It's also no big surprise that the I-90 between Highway 41 and Northwest Boulevard is a problem if there is one car that does something unreliable that everything comes to a stop."

Miles said pavement conditions from State Line to Northwest Boulevard are in need of refinishing.

He said it wouldn't be unreasonable for the roads to become a significant problem by 2035.

"If you think about what to expect by 2040, it looks like another 132,000 people," he said.

Included in KMPO's proposal to increase vehicle registration fees are five regional projects the agency has identified as needed but unfunded. KMPO wants to expand I-90 into a six-lane route from State Line to Sherman Avenue and build out the Huetter Bypass from I-90 to U.S. 95 and the State Highway 53 interchange. KMPO also plans to relocate the I-90 Port of Entry to McGuire Road, create a regional traffic management center, and widen the U.S. 95 Spokane River Bridge.

Miles said that if the fee is implemented, Kootenai County is projected to receive $7.7 million in 2020, and accumulate $201.5 million by 2040.

KMPO also plans to seek a federal loan that would help raise about $200 million in additional funding over the next 20 years. With the aid of grants as well, a potential $864 million could be directed into infrastructure programs throughout Kootenai County.

KMPO has seven other projects expected to be completed by 2040, including Hayden Avenue and U.S. 95 to Huetter Bypass, Pleasant View Road and Seltice Way to State Highway 53, Prairie Road and Meyer Road to State Highway 41, Atlas Road improvements from Seltice Way to Hanley, Pole Line State Highway 41 to Huetter, the Julia I-90 Overpass Ironwood to Appleway, and the State Highway 54 UPRR and BNSF Underpass in Athol.