The Community Planning Association, or COMPASS, is in the final stages of developing a regional, long-range transportation plan for Ada and Canyon counties, looking to the year 2040. Have you been paying attention? Have you had your say?
I'm guessing the first thing that has popped into your mind is "why?" Why should I be paying attention? Why should I care? The year 2040 is a long way off. Contemplating future roads and buses isn't at the top of my "to-do" list. I need to spend my time dealing with things that directly affect me.
If you drive or ride as a passenger in a car, take the bus, walk or bike, or pay taxes, then our transportation system does directly affect you.
The draft plan, Communities in Motion 2040, looks at population growth and addresses how transportation dollars will be spent in Ada and Canyon counties. Federal transportation dollars allocated through the plan are slated to be used to maintain the existing transportation system - to work to keep what we have in good repair. Even with that focus we won't have enough money to maintain our transportation system in the future, much less expand it.
The plan anticipates 422,000 more people to live here in 2040. COMPASS has developed a list of prioritized needs for our future transportation system to accommodate the growing population. Fulfilling these needs (maintenance and expansion) will require $9.7 billion, or $359 million per year. The problem is that we only have about $200 million per year in revenue, leaving an average annual shortfall of $159 million.
Where does that money come from? It is your tax dollars. Knowing that provides a good reason to pay attention. How should your money be used? Do we focus on maintenance as planned? Do we raise taxes to be able to pay for other needed improvements? If we were to get more funding, do you agree with the priorities we have identified? Will they help your future commute? Will they support new jobs and grow our economy?
Communities in Motion 2040 is a plan for you. It will affect your work commute; how easily you can get to a grocery store, school or park; how well your transportation system is maintained; and how and if we expand our transportation system. Implementing the plan will ultimately determine the vitality of our local economy and quality of life.
I invite you to take a moment to look at the draft plan, weigh in and have your say in the future of the Valley.
The public comment period is open from March 3 to April 27. All information, including a comment form, schedule of open houses, and other ways to be involved, can be found online at compassidaho.org.
Charlie Rountree is chair of the board of directors of the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho and city council member for the city of Meridian. COMPASS serves as the metropolitan planning organization for Ada and Canyon counties and is responsible for transportation planning for the two-county area.