Famous Last Words 

Transitions at Transportation department

Another head has rolled in state government; this time it's Frank Eckern, the former director for the Department of Transportation. The agency had been afflicted by low morale, according to a report uncovered by The Associated Press, but Gov. Jim Risch, who announced Eckern's retirement, said that wasn't a factor. Eckern says he has "significant career opportunities," and says he wants to chase those without being a public employee. Don't know how they could get much better; he was making $130,000 before he left.

"It was difficult times for this department," said Jeff Stratten, an ITD spokesman. "Revenue for the department became stagnant under his tenure."

His replacement, Dwight Bower, is an old hand; he ran the department for nine years before he retired in 2002. While he was in the private sector, Bower wasn't idle; most recently he gave hope to the City of Boise when he presented a report for a Forum on Transportation Investment that recommended, among other things, that land-use and transportation planning should be integrated "at all levels." That's certainly not happening in Boise just now, considering that the city has just been sued by the Ada County Highway District over disagreements about Ustick Road widening.

The ITD Forum was held late last week, and featured staff from the agency, as well as the city of Boise. Among the many suggestions Bower's report made for raising transportation bucks: raise the gas tax.

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