We count on Idaho’s roads, bridges, and highways to safely connect our communities and support our economy. The recent collapse of the Teton Pass is a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities our aging infrastructure presents to lives and livelihoods. As a key route between Idaho and Wyoming, its closure has profound implications for local economies, tourism, and the day-to-day lives of Idahoans.

Infrastructure failures such as the Teton Pass collapse force commuters to take longer, more hazardous detours, increasing travel time and costs. This affects individual workers and disrupts businesses that rely on transporting goods and services. Emergency services are also compromised, potentially delaying responses in urgent situations.

For towns like Victor and Driggs, which heavily depend on tourism, the closure of the Teton Pass couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Pass is a major gateway for tourists heading to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The road closure dealt a severe blow during peak visitor seasons, affecting local businesses, from hotels and restaurants to outdoor adventure companies.

Fortunately, a temporary detour is expected in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, the broader issue of infrastructure maintenance and improvement remains critical. In Idaho alone, 234 bridges and over 481 miles of highway are in poor condition.

Democrats have led national efforts to bolster infrastructure through initiatives like the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Idaho stands to benefit significantly, expecting approximately $2.2 billion over five years, specifically for highways and bridges.

These federal investments are already translating into tangible improvements across the state. Funding will improve the I-84 corridor, a crucial route for commerce and travel across southern Idaho. Upgrades include widening the road, enhancing safety features, and reducing congestion. Another significant project is the replacement of aging bridges, such as the North Fork Payette River Bridge, the Snake River Bridge in Idaho Falls, and the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, ensuring they meet current safety standards and accommodate growing traffic demands.

Beyond facilitating commerce and protecting us as we travel, these investments have created thousands of jobs in Idaho, ranging from construction workers to engineers and project managers.

Despite the clear benefits and bipartisan support for infrastructure investments, a political divide remains. While Democrats advocate for smart investments that bolster long-term stability and economic growth, some Republican leaders in Idaho have prioritized revenue cuts and corporate subsidies over our infrastructure. This hasn’t stopped Idaho’s Republican U.S. Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson from taking credit for popular projects they voted against.

Every generation must make a deliberate decision to build up, not wear down, our roads and bridges because we know that the prosperity of our state and future generations depend on it. This is such a moment.


Lauren Necochea
Idaho Democratic Party Chair