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 Interstate 84 in Canyon County between western Caldwell and Franklin Boulevard in Nampa 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: over $330 million, based on ITD's most current cost estimate. To make matters worse, the longer we wait, the more it will cost.

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, $330 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 29% 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 $330 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.

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.