$4.1M price hike for Northgate Interchange doesn’t deter Bannock County officials
Since its public announcement in March, the Northgate Interchange project has successfully navigated several logistical roadblocks.
The most recent hurdle — an estimated $4.1 million price hike to build the interchange and a tabled resolution calling for the Idaho Transportation Department to cover the difference — isn’t trivial.
But it’s certainly not a deal breaker, according to private partner Buck Swaney of Millennial Development.
“It’s a normal obstacle and we will continue to move forward,” Swaney said. “We don’t expect this to impact the project and we’re not letting off the gas.”
The ITD board removed a resolution from its agenda before a meeting at its headquarters in Boise last week that called for ITD to cover the additional $4.1 million up front. The 50 percent increase brings the total cost to $12.5 million for the interchange alone.
“The board wants to take a little more time to consider how to best move forward,” said Bill Kotowski, ITD public information specialist. “The board wants to be very cautious to make sure we are taking the right steps to be good stewards with taxpayer dollars while still delivering on our commitment to safety, mobility and economic opportunity.”
The board has not announced when it will add the resolution back to its agenda.
The Northgate Interchange project involves constructing an interchange on Interstate 15 north of Pocatello and building connecting roads to the interchange from Olympus Drive in Pocatello and Siphon Road in Chubbuck. The interchange is expected to trigger a landslide of development in the surrounding areas.
The interchange construction and connecting infrastructure was set to begin in early spring 2018 and the entire project should be completed by October 2018 — that is, if ITD approves the additional $4.1 million resolution.
During last week’s meeting, however, the ITD board did approve an additional $86 million to widen Interstate 84 in Canyon County.
The additional funding will help pay for the estimated $330 million worth of improvements that are planned for the stretch of interstate between Franklin Boulevard in Nampa toward Caldwell.
“The board understands how important it is to bring all these partners together, but more importantly the board is aware of the importance of delivering to our investors, which are the taxpayers,” Kotowski said about the Northgate project. “We need to make sure we are doing the right things with their money.”
Kotowski continued, “This isn’t just an East Idaho issue because $4.1 million is a significant investment for the board to make. They want to make sure that we are doing everything right because public-private partnerships are a great opportunity to fund highway projects — if they are done right.”
While the tabled Northgate resolution called for ITD to cover the additional increase, the Bannock Transportation Policy Organization would repay ITD over the next three years by delaying two future projects in Pocatello.
A metropolitan planning organization, BTPO works with the state on the coordination, prioritization and planning of transportation projects within the urban area they are responsible for, according to BTPO Director Mori Byington.
“The two projects that were proposed for delay is a state-sponsored project that includes an intersection plus a corridor at Alameda Road and Yellowstone Avenue,” Byington said. “And the other one is a project funded by Pocatello and Chubbuck at the intersection of Hawthorne and Quinn roads that was scheduled for fiscal year 2021.”
Delaying the Hawthorne and Quinn intersection project frees up a little more than $2.65 million, and delaying the Alameda and Yellowstone project frees slightly less than $1.35 million.
Byington said a similar process was used during the construction of the South Valley Connector.
“It’s different but it’s nothing serious,” Byington added.
This isn’t the first obstacle developers have faced. What started out as a public-private partnership, the first of its kind in Idaho, the process was riddled with meeting after meeting while awaiting ITD approval.
Initially, the project was spearheaded by three municipal entities and two private developers that included the cities of Pocatello and Chubbuck, Bannock County and the private partnership of Millennial Development, of Utah, and the Pocatello-based Portneuf Development Company LLC.
But because the project involved a highway and interstate maintained by the state, the partners first needed ITD approval to move forward.
Once ITD committed to the project, the initial $8.4 million cost was funded by ITD contributing $5 million, and Chubbuck, Pocatello, and Bannock County contributing $3.4 million collectively.
Swaney said Millennial Development is currently in engineering, design and pre-construction mode and the tabled resolution from ITD doesn’t change anything moving forward.
Both mayors of Pocatello and Chubbuck also said they are moving forward as if business were usual.
“We will likely see the resolution back on the agenda in January,” said Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad. “For Pocatello, this doesn’t change a thing and we believe ITD will find a way to make this happen.”
Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England said, “We’re going forward. We recognize that things can change, and we’ve dealt with that before. But we’ve been working with ITD for several months and we have a substantial amount of property that is developable. This is something that we plan to do no matter what.”
While Chubbuck is responsible for building the connecting infrastructure from Siphon Road to the interchange, Blad said that Millennial Development is tasked with building the connecting road from Olympus Drive, adding that the pot of Pocatello’s finances is dedicated to the construction of the interchange alone.
“The city is in great spot because if it does fall through for whatever reason we get our money back,” Blad said. “But I don’t anticipate this falling through. ITD is interested in hearing from the local engineer and when he is back I’m sure they will get this figured out.”
from Idaho State Journal