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UPDATED: ACHD Votes to Make Fifth, Sixth Streets Two-Way

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KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
Updated Post Oct. 2, 1:30 p.m.
The Ada County Highway District Commission has reversed its position, voting Sept. 27 to convert Fifth and Sixth streets in downtown Boise from one-way to two-way streets.

The vote was split, with Paul Woods, Jim Hansen and Kent Goldthorpe voting in favor of the change, and Rebecca Arnold and Sara Baker voting against. Commissioners considered converting the streets after stakeholders including the city of Boise, the Capital City Development Corporation and business owners asked them to take up the issue.

ACHD had originally planned to make Fifth and Sixth streets two-way, but in June, the commission nixed the project after public surveys showed strong opposition from motorists who said the change would slow traffic and reduce available on-street parking.

According to ACHD, 48 parking spots will be lost as a result of the conversion. According to ACHD spokesman Craig Quintana, crews will make the changeover when the roads are resurfaced in 2019.

Original Post Sept. 26:
During the last three years, the Ada County Highway District has converted several one-way streets to two-way streets as part of its Downtown Boise Implementation Plan. At a meeting Wednesday, Sept. 27, ACHD is expected to consider doing the same to Fifth and Sixth streets—but it promises to be an uphill battle.

The ACHD Commission already weighed in on the issue, voting at its May 25 meeting against converting Fifth and Sixth to two-way streets. The commission is now reconsidering its decision, though, after receiving a memo on behalf of the city of Boise from the office of Mayor Dave Bieter, which outlined some of the economic advantages of two-way streets in downtown cores, citing articles in CityLab, Access Magazine, Strong Towns and South Bend Tribune.

Among those backing the city are business owners, investors and other stakeholders eager to get people out of their cars and onto the sidewalks and bike lanes. Supporters include Mike Brown of Local Construct, Clay Carley of Old Boise, Bill Clark of the Veltex Building, Ed Miller of Givens Pursley, the Boise Chamber of Commerce, the Capital City Development Corporation and Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan.

"This project fits into the big picture of a more multimodal and accessible downtown by creating a safer area of mobility for emergency responders, motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists," wrote Doan in a June 13 letter. "But perhaps just as significantly, Downtown Boise is a destination—not just a place to pass through quickly, and our streets should be designated to reflect this idea."
See related PDF SSPENCER20170927_FINAL_StaffReport_5th6th.pdf
Public feedback has been largely against conversion, however. Of 910 online responses to changing the streets, 65.5 percent disapproved and 24.5 percent were in favor. Motorists drove the conversation, with 89.5 percent of respondents noting they get around in a car, compared to bicyclists and pedestrians, who together accounted for 12.7 percent.

Conversion would slow traffic and decrease the number of parking spaces, which rankled some motorists, as well as the Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and the Idaho Department of Administration. Approximately 3,000 state employees work in the downtown area, and they would be "negatively impacted" by the proposed changes to Fifth and Sixth streets.

"While we understand the desire to make downtown more user-friendly for bikes and pedestrians, that should not be done at the expense of state employees who live outside downtown Boise and rely on vehicle traffic corridors," Otter wrote.

The commission will meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27, in the Brokaw Auditorium at the ACHD offices.

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