Cutting Out the Car

BSU considers cutting off University Drive


A familiar artery through the Boise State campus might be closed partially, if the school gets its new master plan approved by the City of Boise.

The Boise City Council is slated to consider Boise State's plan, which would close part of University Drive to cars, at a hearing next week.

"This is all just a proposal," said Frank Zang, spokesman for Boise State. The idea, he said, was to close University Drive between Euclid and Lincoln avenues, and redesign it as a thoroughfare for bicyclists and pedestrians.

"We want to have a pedestrian-friendly campus," Zang said.

The plan has already been approved by the State Board of Education. But the rubber meets the road at city hall, where some officials have concerns about losing a major east-to-west connection like University Drive.

"It's never been my preference," said Mayor Dave Bieter. "There's some more talking to be done on that."

Council President Maryanne Jordan said the emerging concerns about the plan, which also recommends building five new parking garages and putting more foot bridges across the Boise River, were the reason for holding a new public hearing on the matter on Sept. 12.

"I really applaud the efforts toward pedestrian accessibility," said Jordan. "But I think you can accommodate that without closing roads."

Likewise, the SouthEast Neighborhood Association has taken a position against the closure of University Drive, said Fred Fritchman, a member of the association's board.

"Traffic is like water. You dam it up in one place, it flows elsewhere," Fritchman said. In this case, he worries that traffic would flow into and through neighborhoods that don't have high traffic volume.

"We need to leave that access open," Fritchman said.

On a single Wednesday in 2003, the Ada County Highway District counted some 9,621 cars heading east from Broadway Avenue onto University, with westbound traffic peaking at 459 cars in the morning and 402 cars in the evening.

Zang, however, said most of the traffic generated for University was created from within the campus.

What's more, he said, the plan wouldn't preclude automobile access to Bronco Stadium for athletic events. And although the street would be primarily intended for foot and bike traffic, he said that in emergencies, the redeveloped University Drive wouldn't be closed off to emergency vehicles.

The sprawling master plan is intended to guide Boise State through the next several years of growth. The last plan of its sort was created in 1997. To plan for more students and staff--Boise State has 18,600 students and 3,000 staff--the school also hopes to build five new parking garages on campus. To help inspire those students to interact with the Boise River, the school also hopes to build more foot bridges over the river, and possibly cut down some cottonwood trees, because, as the plan states, "though providing a welcome curtain of green, those trees also divorce the campus from views of the river itself."