Highway district’s walk, bike path a good idea, but ‘not in my backyard’ (copy)

More than 30 people attended a meeting in 2019 on a proposed project of a walking/biking path west of Grangeville.

GRANGEVILLE – With grant funding not an option this go-round, plans for a proposed biking and walking path east of Grangeville are on hold with as-yet no determination they will be pursued further.

Tying into this is an expected revenue decrease for the project’s sponsor, the Grangeville Highway District (GHD), which will be part of its determinations to fund both the path proposal, as well as its obligated road work responsibilities.

“ITD [Idaho Transportation Department] was quite favorable about the application,” said project lead, Daryl Mullinix. “I think they would have supported it. They felt it was a pretty good project.”

GHD proposed the plan a year ago in March: an estimated $500,000 project for a 1.8-mile loop, from Grangeville High School, along Fish Hatchery Road and east along U.S. Highway 95. The plan was to address the increase of pedestrians and bicyclists in the area, and specifically on district roads, with a dedicated path that would be a safer alternative, and be paved and maintained for community use.

Recently, the district was advised its half-million grant for federal grant funding through the state’s Transportation Alternative Program was unsuccessful, Mullinix said. Awards of $500,000 did go to projects in ITD’s District 2 in Moscow and Lapwai, he said. Applications were reviewed through ITD’s Division of Highways, along with the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council.

“I think we covered our bases pretty well. We had pretty good support from everyone,” he said, from the general public (more than 175 people signed a petition in favor), businesses such as Super 8, to the Syringa Hospital Board of Trustees, Mountain View School District, and the Idaho County Commission. “Everyone was favorable other than the city,” he continued, which he said he was disappointed with and made the proposal more difficult to proceed with.

The district’s application was in competition with larger population areas that served greater numbers, and as well, those other cities provided more match funds than the 7 percent GHD did, explained Mullinex, as factors in its unsuccessful attempt. Despite this, he said, the state was encouraging to not give up on the project and to apply again.

Whether the district will pursue the project further is uncertain at this point.

“This is a volatile time in our culture right now,” Mullinix said. One impact from COVID-19 is a reduction in funds local entities – including the highway district – receive in gas tax receipts. GHD looks to see a 10 to 15 percent reduction in its funds from this source, and that could make it difficult, he said, to dedicate 7 percent match to a future application.

“[The district board] will just have to see where we’re at in 2021,” he said.

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