This is the third in my series of blogs highlighting our unfunded transportation priorities. Click or scroll down to read my first two – on Interstate 84 and State Highway 44.
Today, I’m focusing on COMPASS’ #3 unfunded priority -- US 20/26; also known as Chinden Boulevard in Ada County. If you’ve looked at my two previous “unfunded priority” blogs, you’ve probably started to notice a theme – our top three unfunded priorities happen to be the three primary east/west travel routes in Ada and Canyon Counties.
Is this a coincidence? No.
It’s probably not a surprise either, given the geography of our valley – most of our population and jobs, and therefore our regional transportation needs, follow an east/west alignment. So far, we have looked at I-84, the southernmost east/west route in the two-county region, and State Highway 44, the northernmost east/west route in the region. Today, we’re looking at US 20/26 – the route in the middle.
While US 20/26 is in need of improvement now – to accommodate today’s users – it is only going to get worse as we grow.
By 2040, traffic along US 20/26 is expected to double (or more) between Middleton Road in Caldwell and Linder Road in Meridian, and increase by a whopping 80% from Linder Road to Eagle Road. Today’s 25-minute commute from Middleton Road to Glenwood Street in Boise will take you an hour by 2040 if improvements are not made.
From Middleton Road to Locust Grove (Meridian), the population along the US 20/26 corridor is expected to more than triple, from just under 9,000 in 2013 to over 29,000 in 2040, while employment in the same area is expected to increase six-fold (!) from 1,300 jobs in 2013 to 8,200 in 2040.
So, what’s being done about it?
The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has been studying US 20/26 from I-84 in Caldwell to Eagle Road in Boise, and has developed an Environmental Assessment – a study that must be completed before any construction can begin. The Environmental Assessment includes recommended roadway improvements and right-of-way needs for the corridor between now and 2040. The final public comment opportunity on this assessment was just completed. Information on the Environmental Assessment can be found online at apps.itd.idaho.gov/apps/us2026CorridorStudy/default.html
However, while the Environmental Assessment is a necessary first step, the lack of funding for the majority of the corridor is still the elephant in the room.
Some minor improvements are funded. These projects – restoring the pavement between Borchers Lane in Caldwell and Locus Grove Road, adding right turn lanes at three intersections in Canyon County and a new signal at Franklin Road, and replacing a bridge over the Phyllis Canal near Meridian – are slated to occur between 2017 and 2021. However, only one project to increase the capacity of the roadway is funded.
That project – widening by adding one lane in each direction between Locust Grove Road and Eagle Road (State Highway 55) is budgeted for construction in 2021, pending approval of the Environmental Assessment. The remainder of the planned widening and related improvements remains unfunded. ITD anticipates constructing these projects through a phased approach between now and 2040, but that can only happen if funding becomes available.
With continued growth, but without needed transportation improvements, we will spend more and more time in our cars, and less and less time with family and friends. Let’s continue to work for a solution to meet our transportation funding needs.
Don’t let the Treasure Valley Fall through the Cracks.