- Associated Press - Thursday, January 14, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho Transportation Department officials say they are not requesting a funding boost from state lawmakers despite facing a $165.3 million annual shortfall to maintain the state’s aging bridges and roads.

ITD Director Brian Ness presented the $707.7 million budget to the Joint Finance Appropriations budget committee on Thursday. However, only $350 million of the agency’s budget will come from state funds if the Legislature approves it later this year.

“I think we need to see how much we can do with the money we have,” Ness said. “We have done some amazing things in looking at how we can become more efficient. So we need to see how that goes.”

Ness said that ITD is attempting to fill the funding gap with approximately $50 million that now comes from new revenue like fees, car and truck registration and a gas tax that was implemented last year. Another $50 million funneled from surplus general funds to the department was awarded after a heated legislative battle last year.

With the new revenue, the department has completed 10 projects, another four projects are underway, and another 13 projects are slated to begin later this year.

The department is awaiting Legislative approval to embark on another 17 projects that are funded in the $50 million in general funds, Ness said.

“We are slowing the decline,” Ness told the Associated Press following the committee meeting. “We are taking care of some of our more restrictive bridges we wouldn’t have been able to take care of otherwise. And we are improving safety; we are saving lives.”

Ness also said he plans on reducing the ITD workforce by another 20 positions starting in July. Ness has reduced his staff by 155 employees since 2010. Currently the department employs about 1,700 people.

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