by Andrew Crisp
Transportation was a major focus for the City of Boise Wednesday. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood visited The City of Trees, stopping at a Boise-based locomotive manufacturing facility with Boise officials on board for the tour.
MotivePower, a division of the Wabtec company, manufactures freight and passenger locomotives on contract for cities in Australia, New York state, Canada and elsewhere at their campus near Federal Way.
LaHood toured the facility with Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and Republican 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador, as well as Boise City Council President Mary Anne Jordan and Council Member Lauren McLean. LaHood affirmed a commitment to the transportation goals of city government.
"This morning, I had a chance to spend more than an hour with the mayor and his team," said LaHood. "I have committed to the mayor a team from [the Department of Transportation] to work together with the mayor on his mission. The idea of a streetcar system to connect the university community with the downtown community is a very strong vision."
That relationship would include technical advice, as well as funding, said LaHood. Mayor Bieter presented LaHood with a bicycle helmet signed by two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong. He then echoed LaHood's statements about the future of light rail and streetcar systems in Boise.
"It's a future where bike riding and rail transit and pedestrian traffic work alongside the automobile," said Bieter. "It's important for a more-compact, more-vibrant and economically viable future."
In 2011, the city received a $375,000 DOT grant for an alternative transportation study to reassess the route of a downtown streetcar, a project which has been quiet since 2009. The study will evaluate how a circulator could best connect with Boise neighborhoods, and move within the Boise State University campus.
Bieter told Boise Weekly a proposed route could travel north from the university down Capitol Boulevard to the proposed site of a transit center off Jefferson Street near the Idaho State Capitol. The route could also extend on an east-to-west route, traveling as far as 15th Street.
LaHood and Bieter drove the route during his visit, the mayor said.
In total, the study will cost $500,000, to be completed before 2014. The city matched the federal goverment's contribution with $125,000 after the competitive federal grant was awarded.
LaHood heads north today to tour the Port of Lewiston, the recipient of a $1.3 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant awarded to the city this year.