Thursday, October 23, 2014

Commission Candidates Fault ACHD's Relationship With City of Boise at BBP Forum

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Left to right: Bob Bruce, John Seidl, Brock Frazier and Paul Woods - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Bob Bruce, John Seidl, Brock Frazier and Paul Woods

Four of six candidates vying for a seat on the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners told attendees at a forum held at Boise Bicycle Project Wednesday evening that the organization with curb-to-curb control over Ada County's roads has been deaf to the citizens of the communities it serves and has failed as a partner of the city of Boise.

"The problem is animosity. [ACHD and the city of Boise] just aren't working together," said John Seidl, who's running for the ACHD District No. 3 seat, along with Bob Bruce, Brock Frazier and Paul Woods. Other candidates for the seat, but who didn't attend the forum, were Stephanie Blake and J.J. Howard.

The city of Boise and ACHD have had a dramatic relationship in 2014 that garnered headlines about car sensors embedded in the roads under paid parking spaces, roundabouts being installed as part of ACHD's downtown implementation plan, and a high-profile fight over a short-lived bike lane pilot project and subsequent consideration of permanent bike lanes along Capitol Boulevard.

For former Ada County Commissioner Paul Woods, repairing relations between ACHD and the Boise City Council is a priority, along with creating safer routes for children to get to school.

"Improving cooperation is one of the main reasons I'm in this race," Woods said.

But for commissioner hopeful and web and software developer Brock Frazier, the problem isn't that ACHD hasn't given the city what it wants: Rather, he's concerned that the public has "a real problem in this election," and that its interests are being poorly served by career public servants, comparing the public to a candle being burned at both ends. Though he said he favored building bike lanes to serve the growing number of cyclists in Boise, he was adamant that he thought the city placing sensors into the ground to serve parking meters and designing an app to help drivers find open parking spaces—technology the Boise City Council has been keen to deploy downtown—was a potential hazard to drivers and cyclists alike. He also criticized the City Council over police militarization.

However, those in attendance saw cooperation between the two agencies as critical. Sonia Daleiden, a transportation engineer who worked on the bike lane pilot project and said she rides her bike about every other day, described cooperation as "critical," but said that laying community disappointment over the short duration of the bike lane pilot project at ACHD's feet may be unfair.

"Usually there's a much longer [pilot project] period, but I understand ACHD was under a lot of pressure from negative comments from the community," she said, referring to an ACHD-conducted survey that drew primarily negative feedback toward the project from motorists.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

UPDATE: ACHD Doesn't Vote to Reconsider Engineers' Bike Lane Plans

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 3:46 PM


During a scheduled Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners meeting, the ACHD did not bring to a vote a request by Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan to reconsider a bike lane stakeholder group proposal for designated bike lanes running down Capitol Boulevard.

In order for a bicycle artery to run between Boise State University and City Hall, ACHD engineers will have to return to the drawing board to refigure the widths of traffic, bus and bicycle lanes, as well as buffers painted buffers between them.

The ACHD balked at the original bike lane plan because it narrowed some general traffic lanes to 10 feet—too narrow, its members said, for Capitol Boulevard; though members of the Boise City Council said during their Sept. 30 meeting that 10-foot-wide traffic lanes would organically slow traffic on Capitol Boulevard, decreasing the need for police speed enforcement on that road.


The Boise City Council has rejected ACHD's latest revised plan for bike lanes on Capitol Boulevard at a work session the afternoon of Sept. 30.

CORRECTION: A new proposal, put before the Boise City Council, would eliminate six inches from the bike lane on Capitol Boulevard between Main and Idaho streets, as well as a 1.5-foot buffer between the bike lane and a bus parking area. On Capitol Boulevard between Grove and Main streets, a two-foot buffer between a dedicated 17-foot bus lane and general traffic would also be removed. Both the amendments to the original stakeholders' proposal would widen general traffic lanes from 10 feet to 11 feet.

A new proposal, put forth by ACHD engineers, would retain 11-foot automobile travel lanes down the length of Capitol Boulevard by reducing a 3.5-foot buffer lane between Valley Regional Transit buses and car traffic by two feet. In front of City Hall, a buffer between bike and VRT bus traffic would be reduced and the bus lane itself would be narrowed from 17 feet to 15 feet.

That didn't sit well with members of the City Council, who said that narrowing city streets organically reduced car speeds without resorting to writing speeders tickets, and that in other metropolitan areas, 10-foot car traffic lanes are the norm, not the exception.
Details of a bike lane proposal made by stakeholders to the Boise City Council and the ACHD. - ACHD
  • ACHD
  • Details of a bike lane proposal made by stakeholders to the Boise City Council and the ACHD.

"This is an area where we need to acknowledge that this is an urban area and not a suburban arterial," said City Council Member Elaine Clegg.

The move is the latest in a tense back and forth between the two groups over where and how bike lanes will be installed in downtown Boise. Just last week, the City Council and ACHD held a joint session where they heard an ambitious proposal from an ACHD-convened bike lane stakeholder group. During that session, the City Council voted to encourage ACHD to adopt the stakeholder group's proposal, but the following day, ACHD rejected it on the grounds that it would narrow car lanes along Capitol Boulevard to 10 feet—too narrow for its tastes. 

The ball is now in ACHD's court: At its Wednesday, Oct. 1, meeting, the commission is slated to consider a letter submitted by City Council President Maryanne Jordan formally requesting that it reconsider the stakeholder group's original proposal. If ACHD votes to reconsider the original stakeholder plan, it will return to its in-house engineers to verify its feasibility. If, however, ACHD votes against the City Council's request, bike lanes on Capitol Boulevard won't just be out of gas—they'll be on blocks.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nampa to Mull Biking, Walking Improvements

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 10:15 AM

As the Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District consider recommendations for improved bicycle infrastructure from a stakeholder group delivered Sept. 23 at a rare joint session of the city council and ACHD, Nampa is considering similar improvements of its own, the Idaho Press Tribune reports

Nampa residents are being encouraged to attend an open house to learn about planned improvements including bicycle boulevards—a bike-friendly street where cars are outnumbered—bike lanes, multi-use paths and enhanced lighting. The city received funding for the improvements through federal transportation grants, and construction is expected to begin in spring or summer of 2015.

The open house will take place from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, at Flying M Coffeegarage. 
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

City Council, With ACHD Commissioners, Hears From Bike Lane Stakeholders, Passes Anti-Camping Ordinance Amendment

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 3:05 PM

The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 23 during a rare joint meeting to discuss a proposal from the bike lane stakeholders group. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 23 during a rare joint meeting to discuss a proposal from the bike lane stakeholders group.

The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners heard from a group of stakeholders for Boise's bike lane project at a meeting the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 23. The stakeholder group proposed an ambitious plan for lanes along Capitol Boulevard that would be part of a still more ambitious plan to connect existing bicycle arteries in the downtown core to Boise State University, West Boise and beyond.

The proposal may eventually place buffered (painted) or protected (with vertical physical barriers between bikes and car traffic) lanes along Americana and Capitol boulevards, on the Broadway Bridge and Front Street, as well as dedicated lanes on other streets and "sharrows"—painted indications that motorists must share the road with cyclists.

But the aspect of the proposal that the stakeholders had most fleshed out was for Capitol Boulevard that includes a mixture of painted bike lanes or physically buffered lanes from Boise State all the way to the Capitol Building.

Though hashing over the Capitol Boulevard plan took up the bulk of the city council and ACHD's time, the achievement of the meeting was a consensus between ACHD and the City of Boise on enforcement of bike lane rules and the necessity for bicycle and motorist education to reduce frictions between the two primary users of Boise's roadways.

"We all need education for how to use any new structure we put in place," said ACHD Deputy Director of Planning and Projects Dave Wallace.

Referring to an ACHD poll that generated massive participation from motorists and cyclists alike during the controversial bike lane pilot project and found that many cyclists were using the lanes incorrectly or preferring to ride on city sidewalks, ACHD Commissioner Sarah Baker said that if the commissioners were going to sign off on a permanent set of bike lanes for downtown Boise, Boiseans would have to use those lanes correctly, and the city would have to create and enforce rules governing cyclists' lane use.

"What we got out of those comments is the unpredictability of bike riders. The rules need to come in as well," Baker said.

But city officials have long worried that the bike lane pilot project didn't last long enough for cyclists to learn and accustom themselves to bike lane rules. Boise City Council member Elaine Clegg countered Baker, saying that better bike lane use will come when bike lanes are installed.

"I think we're seeing a lot of bad behavior because there aren't a lot of good choices," she said.

City Council member Lauren McLean agreed.

"Once you paint and stripe an area, it won't be hard to get people to change their patterns," she said.

The Boise City Council also briefly discussed a proposed amendment to its anti-camping ordinance, which critics say targets the homeless. The ordinance was passed in a 5-1 vote, with the dissenting vote coming from Lauren McLean. It will prohibit police from enforcing the existing anti-camping law in the event that there is no room in an overnight shelter and the person sleeping or camping in a public space. Police may enforce the anti-camping ordinance if there is room in a shelter but has been removed because of unruly behavior, or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

"[The homeless who are mentally ill or on drugs] are truly the most vulnerable," McLean said. "I have deep concerns."

Elaine Clegg and T.J. Thompson both said that the conversation about homelessness in Boise is ongoing, but that the amendment was a step in the right direction.

"There are solutions, but in our situation, we do need to re-engage this conversation on a very deep level. We're trying," Clegg said.

"It's not changing what we're doing now. We have a lot to do," Thompson said of the amendment. 
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Friday, September 19, 2014

Boise Triathlete Critically Injured in Bicycle/Automobile Crash

Posted By on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 10:59 AM

A Boise triathlete is in critical condition at an area hospital after being struck by a car during a training ride, KTVB reports

The rider, Rachel Corey, was on a training ride on Pleasant Valley Road near Gowen Road when she was hit by a northbound sedan at approximately 6:21 p.m. Sept. 16. Police are investigating the incident and no charges have been filed. 

Corey was wearing a helmet, and was described by a family member to KTVB as an experienced rider. 

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Warm Springs Area Greenbelt Closure Begins Monday

Posted By on Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM

  • Ada County Highway District

The Greenbelt is undergoing several construction projects right now, from the planning of an extension on the south side of the Boise River from Ann Morrison Park to Americana Boulevard, to the resurfacing and rerouting of the path from Americana Boulevard to Riverside Park. The first project will take several years to complete, while the second will require that portion of the Greenbelt to remain closed through late October.

Now, the Ada County Highway District is announcing yet another closure on the Greenbelt. Starting Monday, Sept. 22, the Greenbelt will be shut down along the north side of the Boise River from the East Parkcenter Bridge to Windsong Drive near Warm Springs Avenue.

Crews will be fixing an eroding shoulder and drainage problems across from the Warm Springs Mesa subdivision. Detours will be set up near the Parkcenter Bridge and the northwest corner of Warm Springs Golf Course (near the Orange Bridge). Repairs should finish up around Friday, Oct. 10.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ACHD's Bike Lane Stakeholder Meetings Nearing Conclusion

Posted By on Tue, Aug 12, 2014 at 4:43 PM

ACHD's bike lane stakeholder group has no shortage of recommendations, but how many of those will make it to the ACHD commissioners? - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • ACHD's bike lane stakeholder group has no shortage of recommendations, but how many of those will make it to the ACHD commissioners?

Ada County Highway District's planning and projects deputy director David Wallace has to go before the ACHD commissioners on Wednesday, Sept. 3 and submit the recommendations of the bike lane stakeholder group ACHD put together earlier this summer, and a possible plan for downtown Boise's future bike lanes.

But first, Wallace needs to nail down exactly what those recommendations are.

To do that, the group met for one of the last times on Aug. 12 to look at three proposals put together by a subcommittee of stakeholders. The three proposals included DBIP, which puts a bike lane buffered with paint on Capitol and keeps the lanes of traffic pretty much the same, and moves parking in front of City Hall away from the curb much like the pilot project; DBIP Amended, which takes away one lane of traffic on Capitol and makes a larger two-way bike lane buffered with a physical barrier—like giant concrete flower pots—from the Boise Rive to River Street; and DBIP Amended Plus, which is just like DBIP Amended, except the physical barriers would run all the way to Main Street.

After showing off the three loose proposals, Wallace asked the stakeholders for their thoughts, "principles" and "preferences." The meeting started sleepily, without much contribution from the 18 stakeholders that showed up (last time, there was 25)—except for that one person with a hand always in the air.

As more participants spoke up though, it felt like deja vu of the meeting held almost exactly a month ago, when different factions of stakeholders presented their viewpoints on the pilot project.

Folks voiced concerns over losing parking, having accessible ADA parking available, letting city buses safely cross bike lanes to reach stops, confusion over bike boxes, the importance of education, buffering materials that "don't make it look like a construction zone," safety and comfort for casual cyclists, reduced speeds for vehicular traffic, and east-to-west connectivity.

When the vast amount of disagreement became clear, Karen Gallagher from the city of Boise planning and development services, raised her hand.

"I'm not clear on what you're going to say to the commissioners as far as what this stakeholder group is recommending," she said.

"Neither am I," said Wallace. "I'm in a crazy position."

Wallace is in a strange position where he has to walk the line of making the stakeholders happy and presenting the commission with a proposal they feel is realistic. 

He ended the meeting with three giant notepad papers full of "principles and preferences" from the stakeholders, with the task ahead of him to figure out how to boil it down and sell it to the commission within three weeks.

"As they say on Car Talk," he joked with the stakeholders at the end of the meeting, "you've wasted another hour and 35 minutes of your time."
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bike Lane Stakeholder Meeting, Round 2

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 3:43 PM

About 25 stakeholders gathered July 15 to discuss the best fit for Boise's bike lanes. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • About 25 stakeholders gathered July 15 to discuss the best fit for Boise's bike lanes.

Nearly 25 people shuffled into the Ada County Highway District’s auditorium this afternoon, greeted with name tags and 20 feet of sub sandwiches. They were there to talk about one thing: Boise’s bike lanes.

Back when the buffered bike lanes were removed from Boise’s downtown core, the ACHD Board of Commissioners reassured their constituents that a stakeholder group would be put together and come up with a plan for the best-possible bike lanes for downtown. The group first met on June 25, when attendees were divvied up and assigned homework.

July 15 marked the stakeholder group’s second meeting, where they came together and showed their findings.

Jimmy Hallyburton, of the Boise Bicycle Project, and Dave Fotsch of the Boise Bike Share project, went first. The two of them talked about the importance of education when installing new bike lanes.

“We want to avoid the bike-versus-car argument,” Hallyburton said. “This is education not just for bikes, but for all road users.”

Fotsch focused on strategies for education, like creating a central website chock-full of how-to videos, social media campaigns, TV, radio and billboard advertising, and community outreach at popular events like Alive After Five and the Saturday Market. He was adamant that education should start as soon as the new plan is approved and continue for a full year.

The presentations continued for two hours, meandering through issues of traffic congestion, parking, deliveries to downtown businesses, street maintenance, public safety, bike laws, two-way street conversions, signal timing, and different bike lane models available.

The next step, according to Dave Wallace, deputy director of planning and projects, will be to further break down the stakeholders group into a “slightly smaller, a little more functional [committee] to go forward and create some alternatives.”

“The large group can then chew on that the next time we get together, and try to come up with a solution that would be acceptable for the Boise City Council and the ACHD commissioners,” Wallace said.

The stakeholders will meet again Aug. 5.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Eighth Street in Downtown Boise to Change Direction

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 11:11 AM

  • CCDC

Beginning Monday, Sept. 1, drivers will notice something fishy about Eighth Street. That's because the Capital City Development Corporation has approved a reversal in the flow of that road's traffic. On that day, cars will start traveling north on the road instead of south.

According to a CCDC press release, the conversion will "immediately improve overall downtown traffic flow, provide local bicyclists a safer lane option and help relieve potential traffic issues on Main Street when periodic lane closures occur during construction of the Multimodal Transit Center on Grove Plaza."

The conversion is meant to be permanent and was orchestrated to use Eighth Street as a traffic "release valve" to relieve congestion on Main Street during periodic lane and road closures.

CCDC is also touting the conversion as a boon to cyclists. Currently, the bike lane on Eighth Street is the only such lane in the city that runs against the flow of car traffic. The conversion would align auto traffic with a northbound "sharrow" and create a southbound buffered bike lane, permitting two-way bike traffic on the one-way street. 

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Boise City Council Rejects ACHD's Bike Lane Committee

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 10:09 AM

ACHD crews wasted no time in erasing the evidence of Boise's buffered bike lanes. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • ACHD crews wasted no time in erasing the evidence of Boise's buffered bike lanes.

The back and forth between the Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District continues, after the ACHD announced a group of 42 stakeholders to study how to make bike lanes work best for downtown Boise. The panel includes cyclists, pedestrians and downtown business owners, as well as staff members of the city of Boise, ACHD and Valley Regional Transit. No elected officials sit on the panel.

But Maryanne Jordan, the president of the City Council, is once again not satisfied with ACHD and she's once again speaking out against it. 

Jordan submitted a letter to the ACHD commissioners June 24, stating that, "By a unanimous vote, the Boise City Council requests that the currently configured stakeholder group be suspended until such time that the leadership of the Council and Commission can meet to identify specific policy direction for the effort."

She wrote the council is unhappy with the stakeholder panel because it's been asking for a meeting with the commission since the bike lanes were ripped out in the beginning of June, wishing to "identify policy goals and objectives prior to establishing the stakeholder working group."

Without establishing those objectives, Jordan wrote, the council is "deeply concerned" that "the effort will be in vain."

She was also displeased that the council had no input on the composition of the stakeholder group. She wrote that  the city's transportation planner wasn't even included in the panel originally.

The stakeholder group is scheduled to meet June 25 at noon at the ACHD auditorium, 3775 Adams St. ACHD spokesperson Craig Quintana said there are no plans to cancel the meeting as Jordan requested.

"[Her letter] came at the 11th-and-a-half hour, so it's a little late," Quintana said. "It's kind of hard to tell a group of 40-some people not to show. The show must go on."

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