Elections

Ada County voters stop ACHD registration fee

Commuters inch along Garden City’s Glenwood Street in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Ada County Highway District commissioners proposed a vehicle registration fee increase to tackle a backlog of projects aimed at relieving traffic congestion, but voters shot the measure down.
Commuters inch along Garden City’s Glenwood Street in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Ada County Highway District commissioners proposed a vehicle registration fee increase to tackle a backlog of projects aimed at relieving traffic congestion, but voters shot the measure down. doswald@idahostatesman.com

A divided Ada County Highway Commission asked voters to cough up $40 more per new vehicle each year to help pay for its rising road-construction and maintenance costs. Voters said no.

With all precincts reporting, ballots cast against the measure outnumbered those in favor by 13,000 — a difference of less than seven points.

The annual fees would have increased by 75 percent. For vehicles as old as two years, the fee would have gone to $70 from $40. Vehicles between three and seven years old would have cost $63 instead of $36, and vehicles older than seven years would have cost $42 instead of $24. These fees are on top of state registration fees.

The Ada County Highway District said it would spend money from increased fees to widen intersections, add turn lanes, improve signal timing, install sidewalks and bike lanes, and provide safer routes to schools.

Development and real estate interests backed ACHD’s request with campaign contributions. As of Oct. 30, a group called Citizens for Better Transportation had raised almost $180,000. Some of the biggest names in Treasure Valley development — Corey Barton Homes, Brighton Corp., and M3 — each donated $10,000 or more. Hubble Homes donated $5,000. Boise Regional Realtors donated $87,500.

Two of ACHD’s five members, Jim Hansen and Kent Goldthorpe, opposed the fee increase. They wanted to earmark some of any increased revenue toward projects to reduce reliance on cars: bike lanes, sidewalks and better accommodations for public transportation. Emails Hansen sent to colleagues seeking support for his conditions prompted the commission’s president, Sara Baker, to accuse Hansen of breaking Idaho’s open meetings law — a charge Hansen admitted, though he denied that it was intentional.

The county’s charges would have been added to the state’s own fees: $69, $57 and $45 for the same age tiers. Registering a new vehicle would have cost $139 in Ada County.

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