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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What can $2 per day buy you? Priority #1 – I-84

$2 per household per day.

I have been repeating that same mantra for years. If every household contributed an extra $2 per day, we could meet our unfunded transportation needs. But what does that really mean to residents of Ada and Canyon Counties? What would you get out of the deal?

Over the next few months, I am going to highlight our highest unfunded priorities – projects that we desperately need, if only we had the funding. I’m starting with our highest priority, I-84 in Canyon County.

It probably comes as no surprise that the nine-mile section of Interstate 84 in Canyon County between Centennial Way and Franklin Boulevard is the region’s top priority. Both safety and congestion are serious issues and will only get worse as time goes by. Between 2008 and 2015 alone, there were 950 total crashes in that segment – that’s an average of 119 per year!

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. We’ve heard your concerns loud and clear:

“The area is in DESPERATE need of repair and widening. Congestion is a MESS and the road is totally TORN UP with deep cracks EVERYWHERE making it a hazard for us the daily travelers!”
“I drove this section of the Interstate just this past week, and was appalled at the condition of the roadway, which is under constant heavy use not only by local residents, but also by huge numbers of out-of-state travelers and truckers.”
“The Nampa-to-Caldwell freeway… is not just a ‘cosmetic’ concern--it is a real safety issue, which must not be ignored…”
“As a Nampa resident, I normally avoid this part of the freeway because of the roughness of the pavement and because of the hassles of merging onto it.”
“The 3-lane to 2-lane neck-down west bound in Nampa is dangerous (crazy, impatient drivers) and congested. While that bottleneck is truly an annoyance, I am more concerned with the road condition between Nampa/Caldwell.”
What may surprise you is the price tag: $155.5 million, based on a 2014 estimate. To make matters worse, the longer we wait, the more it will cost.

What would that $155.5 million buy?
  • Widening the nine-mile stretch from Centennial Way to Franklin Boulevard from four lanes to six lanes
  • Replacing four overpasses and two canal bridges
What would this mean to you? You would have a less congested and safer commute. The current bottleneck where the interstate transitions from six lanes to four lanes would be eliminated. Additional side benefits would likely include relieving congestion on the Caldwell-Nampa Boulevard and making public transportation services more efficient.

But, $155.5 million in a lot of money. To put this into perspective, in 2015 the Idaho Legislature passed House Bill 312, which raised the Idaho fuel tax and vehicle registration fees. This increase added an additional $95 million per year statewide. This annual statewide total is only 61% of what would be needed to widen I-84.

I appreciate what was accomplished in the 2015 Legislature, but it’s not enough to pay for these types of large projects. I often hear from people, “you raised my taxes, now fix it” or “if they really wanted to, ITD would find a way to pay for it.”
It’s not that simple. Believe it or not, ITD doesn’t have an extra $155 million just sitting around. That said, they are constantly working on finding ways to fund at least part of that section of I-84. 

With COMPASS, ITD has applied for several federal competitive grants to complete sections of the work. While those grants so far have been unsuccessful, we keep trying. At the same time, we also continue to ask the Idaho Legislature to augment its 2015 increase with additional, sustainable funding so that this, and other much needed projects, do not continue to get kicked down the road.

Don’t Let the Treasure Valley Fall Through the Cracks

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Key to Broadway Bridge's Success

Last month when we presented our annual Leadership in Motion awards, it occurred to me that we should share these types of success stories more than just once a year. So, I’m going to use my blog to highlight notable projects or programs, large and small, that showcase the amazing work that happens every day in the Treasure Valley.

Most of you know the story of the Broadway Bridge – the old 1956 bridge had outlived its useful life. It was deemed “structurally deficient” and was no longer able to accommodate the 24,000+ vehicles and countless bicyclists and pedestrians that crossed it every day.

There was little, if any, dispute of the need for rebuilding the bridge. However, decisions regarding how to tear down and rebuild a new bridge that would accommodate all users, and do so with minimal disruption, were not as straightforward. These decisions could make or break the project. Ultimately they were the hallmark of its success.

The Idaho Transportation Department’s extensive, ongoing, and honest conversations with local stakeholders – the public, Boise State University, the City of Boise, adjacent businesses, Ada County Highway District (ACHD), and more – were instrumental in shaping the final design of the bridge. From start to finish, ITD went above and beyond to include and educate anyone and everyone who would be affected by the bridge replacement.

ITD closed the bridge on January 4, 2016, with a goal to open the new bridge before the first Boise State home football game in September. Could a project of this magnitude, with so many moving parts, really be completed in nine months?

Yes, it could. Again, the key was open communication and cooperation. Without assistance and partnerships with ACHD, the City of Boise, Boise State University, and neighboring businesses, the project could not have been built with such precision and on such a tight timetable.

So, how did ITD foster an open and ongoing dialogue with its stakeholders to make this project such a success? With an extensive and far-reaching public involvement strategy that included: 

  • Working closely with local businesses to minimize impact. In fact, business owners praised ITD for its efforts to keep them “in the loop,” and its timely response to questions and problems.
  • Widely distributing information on the closure, detours, and status updates on construction. You would have been hard pressed to find someone who did not know the Broadway Bridge was under construction.
  • Conducting community workshops that ultimately helped ITD make the decision to construct the bridge through a complete road closure, as opposed to a phased construction with partial closures, and include wide bike lanes and sidewalks and keep the greenbelt under the bridge open to the river.
  • Coordinating with partners to keep traffic flowing on alternate routes, re-route the greenbelt, and keep business access open.


The new bridge was built to serve all users, is attractively designed, includes greenbelt access on all four corners…and was built in just nine months. None of this could have happened without the commitment to an open dialogue, clear communication, and partnership toward a common goal by not only ITD, but its partners, adjacent businesses, and the public.


It is truly a success story.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How do you define leadership?

Yesterday I had the honor of helping to present our 8th annual COMPASS Leadership in Motion awards. It is always one of the highlights of my year.

As I prepared for the awards presentation, I started contemplating how we measure, or define, “leadership.” I looked online for definitions and synonyms for “leader” and “leadership,” but then realized the real definitions were right in front of me.

As I read through the nominations for this year’s recipients, I started to notice that the same terms and ideals kept popping up again and again, across all nominations in all categories. Those who submitted the nominations defined “leadership” better than my online search ever could:

These are the qualities found in our 2016 COMPASS Leadership in Motion award recipients:
  • Visionary
  • Responsive
  • Collaborative
  • Forward-thinking
  • Proactive
  • Innovative
  • Honorable
  • Inclusive
  • Open-minded
  • Leads by example
These are the qualities found in our 2016 COMPASS Leadership in Motion award recipients:

Leadership in Government
      ·       Broadway Bridge, Idaho Transportation Department

Leadership by Example, Business
·         The Riverside Hotel, Lynda Johnson

Leadership by Example, Elected Official
·         Mayor Garret Nancolas, City of Caldwell

Leadership in Practice, Professional
     ·         Jeff Barnes, City of Nampa 

Want to learn more about this year’s recipients? You can find descriptions of each of their accomplishments online at www.compassidaho.org/comm/lim-awards.htm. I hope you will be as inspired to live up to the ideals of leadership as portrayed by this year’s recipients as I am.


Congratulations to our 2016 Leadership in Motion recipients!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How much does your home really cost?

As I discussed in my December 17 post, I am starting a series of quarterly blogs discussing trends and key data from the 2016 Change in Motion Report. This is the first in that series.

Did you know that homes near jobs, shopping, and downtown areas tend to be more expensive, but lower transportation costs can at least partially offset higher mortgage and rental rates? Similarly, homes in the suburbs are usually more affordable, but are further from jobs and other amenities, so more of a person’s income is spent on transportation to get to and from work, school, and shopping.

Nationally, housing and transportation costs combined take up more than half of the average household’s budget; however, most home buyers and lenders only look at housing costs when deciding what they can afford.

Communities in Motion 2040 sets goals for the cost of housing (alone) as percentage of household budget (housing affordability index) and housing and transportation (combined) as a percentage of household budget (location affordability index).

The maps to the right show what a significant difference the addition of transportation to housing costs can make. The green areas are the most affordable and the red areas are the least. As you can see, when looking at housing alone (right), much of the valley is green, yellow, or light orange – on the more affordable side of the spectrum. However, when you look at housing plus transportation (below), you’ll see virtually no green or yellow and significantly more red and dark orange as compared to housing alone.

Our 2016 Change in Motion Report compares housing and location affordability index data for 2013 and 2015 to 2040 goals. While two data points do not constitute a trend, we do see some interesting results.

For housing alone (housing affordability index), we appear to be on track. In both 2013 and 2015, housing accounted for an average of 27.8% of household budgets in the two counties. The goal is to remain under 28%.

However, for housing plus transportation (location affordability index), we appear to be slipping. The 2040 goal is for the two expenses combined to take up less than 50% of the household budget. In 2013, the region averaged 49.1%, but by 2015, this had increased to 53.3% -- not only moving in the wrong direction, but exceeding the goal of less than 50%.
So….why does this matter?

First, we must remember that we are only looking at a change between 2013 and 2015; as I said above, two data points do not constitute a trend. We will continue to monitor the data to determine if location affordability is truly decreasing in the Treasure Valley.

Regardless of the trend, why are we monitoring housing and location affordability in the first place? First, they impact our transportation system. When people live far from their jobs, it increases the pressure on our transportation system. Second, it affects the quality of life of our residents. Higher housing costs mean less discretionary income, and longer commute times mean less time with family. By monitoring these types of trends, we can make decisions to ensure we retain the high quality of life the Treasure Valley is known for.

In the end, isn’t that what long-range planning is all about?

Monday, November 21, 2016

What I’m thankful for

In this busy time of the year, we focus our energies on preparing for the holidays – shopping, cooking, cleaning, and more. In the rush to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner, then to move on to Christmas, we tend to forget about why we are celebrating Thanksgiving in the first place.

I have made an effort to reverse this trend and have taken the time to reflect on what I am thankful for.

While I’m incredibly thankful for many things in my personal life – most notably my family and friends – today I’m writing about what I’m thankful for as the Executive Director of COMPASS.

I am thankful for…

State and Federal Legislation. The Idaho Legislature and Congress stepped up over the past two years to provide additional state transportation funding and a long-term federal transportation bill. While I continue to push for additional funding – our needs still greatly surpass our revenues – I am thankful for what we did get and recognize the amount of compromise and effort it took to get there.

One Less Unfunded Project. In Communities in Motion 2040 we list 33 unfunded priority corridors and projects. In June 2016 we were able to reduce that list by one! Project #23 – Interstate 84/State Highway 55/Midland Boulevard – was funded by the Idaho Transportation Department and the City of Nampa.

New Programs. We’ve made some exciting changes this past year to help serve our members. Through our new Project Development Program and focusing a staff position specifically on assisting member agencies in finding and applying for grant funding, we are helping projects around the region move from great ideas to solid accomplishments like we never have before.

New Members. Golden Gate Highway District and the Cities of Melba and Notus joined COMPASS just last month. We’re excited to have them on board and look forward to their perspectives on continuing to make the Treasure Valley a great place to live.

All Members. Membership in COMPASS demonstrates a long-term investment in the region. Thank you all for your continued efforts – your time, expertise, support, and regional vision.

The COMPASS Board of Directors. I can’t say enough about the leadership and dedication of our Board of Directors. Your ongoing commitment to the future of our valley inspires me on a daily basis.

COMPASS Staff. While our members provide the leadership and policy direction for COMPASS, none of what we do could be accomplished without our amazing staff. I have the honor of working with a group of professionals who are smart, dedicated, and willing to go the extra mile. Thank you for all you do.

I wish you all a safe, happy, and thankful Thanksgiving.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Are we moving the needle?

I often write about plans we are developing or on-the-ground projects that are implementing those plans. We celebrate accomplishments with ribbon cuttings, our Leadership in Motion awards, and more. We even celebrate maintenance! (Check out our Maintenance Matters! video, if you haven’t already!)

But, frequently missing from these conversations is a discussion of how – or if -- these
accomplishments are helping us reach regional goals. Are we actually “moving the needle”?

To answer this question, we track our progress toward meeting regional goals. Through Communities in Motion, we established regional targets for the year 2040, for everything from number of bike crashes to congested miles of interstate to acres of parks. By comparing current data to baseline conditions and 2040 targets, we track trends to see if the region is moving in the right direction.

This information is all reported in performance monitoring (“Change in Motion”) reports. However, we recognize that, especially in today’s culture of fast-paced news tidbits, very few people take the time to read reports.

So, we are finding new ways to share this information with you. Be watching for…
  • A compilation of all these weekly posts on our web site
  • Quarterly posts in this blog to provide a broader discussion of key trends
  • An updated online dashboard – coming next year – to help you find and use the data you care about

If a specific “did you know?” or blog post piques your interest and you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact us at info@compassidaho.org. The future of the Treasure Valley belongs to you. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

And the winners are…

We asked. You responded. And, boy did you respond!

After over a year of collecting photos and votes, we’re excited to announce the winners of the “Treasure Valley: On the Go!” photo contest.

But first, how did we get here? Let’s take a look at the “Treasure Valley: On the Go!” contest by the numbers… 
  • 14 months
  • 34 photographers
  • 89 COMPASS social media posts (+ countless “shares” and re-posts)
  • 20 email blasts
  • 15,659 flyers distributed to 27 schools
  • 116 photos received
  • 41 finalists
  • 240 votes

 And…drumroll please… 

Scroll down to see all the winning photos – I think you’ll be as impressed as I am. The variety, quality, and creativity of the photos is outstanding! Congratulations to all our winners, and to everyone who entered!

The winning photos will be featured in the 2017 “Treasure Valley: On the Go!” transportation calendar, on the COMPASS website, and across all COMPASS social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.

Calendars are FREE and will be available beginning November 2016. Contact ctorkelson@compassidaho.org to reserve your calendar today!


Thank you to all our photographers and everyone who took the time to vote, and, again, CONGRATULATIONS!

Roadway Category:

Balloon Festival by Mike Thueson

Sunrise in the Treasure Valley by Toni Tisdale

Into the Unknown by Kris Cox

Bicycle/Pedestrian Category:

An Afternoon Walk by Mary Huff

Boise River Greenbelt by Jessica Kruger

Hulls Gulch Nature Trail by Jeremy Rigby

Public Transportation Category:

Club Red by Nicole Stern

Zone One by Ken Schick

Kids Boarding by Lanette Daws

Freight Category:

Caldwell Trains by Mark Pemble

Big Mike by Nathan Edwards

Ag Traffic by Greg Kreller





Tuesday, September 6, 2016

“Treasure Valley: On the Go!” We Want Your Vote!

The primaries ended in May, and general election isn’t until November, yet we want your vote now. What’s up with that?

Over the past 12 months, we have asked you to look at, think about, and photograph our local transportation system. It’s been more than a simple exercise in taking photos, but a chance to highlight how we all rely on transportation in our daily lives – from recreational mountain biking to freight supporting our economy.

Your friends, neighbors, and colleagues have been photographing the many aspects of the Treasure Valley’s transportation system and sharing their photos with us through the “Treasure Valley On the Go!” photo contest.

We received 116 photos from 34 photographers from around the valley, showing how they see the Treasure Valley “on the go” in their lives. The photos are creative and diverse – from historic railroad bridges to brand new bikes, from shady paths to snowy roads. The entries truly capture the gamut of transportation options in the Treasure Valley. 

With the help of our Public Participation Workgroup, we narrowed the entries to 41 photos, which are now open for public voting. This is where you come in. We need you to select the winning photos by voting online by 11:59 pm, Tuesday, September 14, 2016. It’s easy – simply click, check out the photos, vote for your favorites, and submit.

The top 12 photos will be used in the 2017 “Treasure Valley On the Go!” calendar – three representing each of the four transportation components that will be included in Communities in Motion 2040 2.0 (bicycle/pedestrian, freight, public transportation, and roadway). Other entries will be used in COMPASS outreach materials, on the COMPASS website, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and more. Watch for them wherever you see COMPASS materials.

The calendars will be available for free later this fall. Watch for announcements when they are available, then grab yours and enjoy a year of seeing the “Treasure Valley: On the Go!” through the eyes of your neighbors.

Remember to submit your votes by Tuesday, September 14, 2016.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

How do you eat an elephant?

How do you eat an elephant? You know the answer: One bite at a time!

The answer is the same when you ask how we can address the region’s immense transportation needs: One bite at a time!

Most large transportation projects are like the elephant; they can’t be tackled all at once. Even relatively small projects often cost multiple millions of dollars.

Instead, transportation agencies frequently take the wise approach of building or improving transportation facilities in small bites. Eventually, all of those bites will complete the larger project to fill a regional need.

The DRAFT FY2017 – 2021 Regional Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, now open for public comment, includes one of those “small bite” projects. The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has budgeted about $7.5 million to widen US 20/26 (Chinden Boulevard) between Locust Grove Road and State Highway 55 (Eagle Road) by adding one additional lane in each direction. Construction is currently planned for fiscal year 2021 and is funded through ITD’s Strategic Initiatives Program – a highly competitive statewide funding source designed to fund projects that increase safety, promote mobility, and stimulate economic opportunity.

We know the need doesn’t stop at Locust Grove Road; improvements are needed all the way to Middleton Road in western Canyon County. However, this project constitutes that “first bite” to meet that larger need. The remainder of the improvements are unfunded; US 20/26 from Locust Grove to Middleton Road sits as #3 on the prioritized list of unfunded projects in Communities in Motion 2040. COMPASS and ITD will continue to seek funding to complete improvements along the corridor.

The project along US 20/26 is just one of dozens of transportation projects funded in the DRAFT FY2017 – 2021 TIP. I encourage you to review the TIP while it is open for public comment and share your feedback on the upcoming projects. Are the “right” projects being funded? Do you see other needs that aren’t addressed?

While we can’t fund every need right now, we will continue to take small bites and eventually eat the elephant.

Public comment is open through Monday, September 19, 2016. Visit www.compassidaho.org/prodserv/transimprovement.htm#draft1721 to review materials and submit your feedback.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

TIP Top Ten

Every year about this time, I write to encourage you to comment on the update to the Regional Transportation Improvement Program, or “TIP” – a five-year budget of federally funded and regionally significant transportation projects. Like any budget, it is detailed and can be intimidating.

That said, your feedback is important. I’ve developed my own “Top 10” list of why you should take the time to review and comment on the FY2017 – 2021 TIP, which is open for public comment through September 19, 2016.

10.       The population of Ada and Canyon Counties is expected to increase by over 440,000 people by the year 2040, for a total forecasted population of 1.022 million. That’s a lot more people using our transportation system.

9.         $80.3 billion worth of freight travels on I-84 each year. Transportation is key to our economic growth.

8.         Idaho received a “C-” on its American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card.

7.         The TIP budgets federal transportation funding, but the federal gas tax that supplies most of that funding has not been raised since 1993. Needless to say, that money doesn’t go nearly as far as it did 23 years ago.

6.         Time spent in traffic is time away from your family and business. The time it takes to travel from Caldwell to Boise is forecasted to double by 2040.

5.         The Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 spent on road, highway, and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5, in the form of reduced vehicle and road maintenance costs, delays, fuel consumption, and emissions, as well as improvements to safety as a result of improved traffic flow.

4.         30% of Idaho’s major roads are in poor condition. Driving on poor roads costs each Idaho motorist an average of $519 per year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs. The TIP is focused on maintenance to address these issues.

3.         Roadway conditions are a significant factor in approximately one-third of traffic fatalities. One-hundred eight-six people died on Idaho roads (statewide) in 2014.

2.         It’s easier than ever to see how projects in the TIP align with regional goals. With each project description you will see a menu that shows which performance measures are met (from Communities in Motion 2040) that specific project supports.

1.         Projects included in the FY2017 – 2021 are budgeted at over $370 million, but we are still $150 million short of meeting transportation needs, each year, in Ada and Canyon Counties.

Our quality of life is directly tied to the quality of our transportation system. That, combined with a growing population and limited transportation funding, leads to some very tough decisions. Your input is needed to ensure we are making the best investments possible.

Want to learn more?

Link to:

Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.