For the last year and a half, most mornings on Warm Springs Mesa have begun to the sounds of heavy equipment pulverizing the landscape, beeping trucks backing up, and the general din of a construction site. Since it was first envisioned in the 70's, the dream of connecting Warm Springs Avenue to Parkcenter Boulevard has slowly come to fruition. Now the four-lane bridge complete with two bike lanes sweeps through the previously forested wetlands, six weeks ahead of schedule.
“This beautiful bridge represents the culmination of a community vision for southeast Boise and the Barber Valley, a vital new transportation connection that will benefit the community for decades to come,” described ACHD Commission President Carol McKee in a press release. The grand opening kicked off with a ceremony this morning, complete with a tour of the bridge's pillar-less structure, bald-eagle friendly construction process, and commemorative plaque by Irene Deely of Woman of Steel art gallery fame.
The ambition is to intermingle neighborhoods. Mesa dwellers need only jaunt across the river to access Bown Crossing, while Boiseans dwelling on the south side of the Boise river now have prime Greenbelt access. Additionally, with a new route into downtown, ACHD hopes to take traffic off of Warm Springs Ave., which for most of the summer was shut down and then rerouted on a new circuitous course through the fields of Harris Ranch.
The Greenbelt too is due for a makeover, with future plans to take the path along the north bank of the Boise river. Next to the bridge sits an immense dirt lot disappearing east along Warm Springs Ave to Barber Mill, where all remnants of vegetation have been torn out in preparation for the future 70 acre Marianne Williams Park which sooner or later will be replanted with native vegetation. Some evenings the deer that used to frequent the former wetlands still appear amongst the bulldozers and orange porta-potties. While there are still some finishing touches to be made, the final cost of the bridge is estimated at $20.7 million and the cost of construction at $14.8 million.
Tonight, though, maybe I'll make the jaunt to Bown Crossing for a few beers. Cheers to you, ACHD.