The air-conditioned auditorium of the Ada County Highway District lured about two dozen people out of the triple-digit temperatures on July 15, when they saddled up as "stakeholders" on the hotly contended issue of Boise bike lanes.
The conversation was only a few minutes old before one woman lifted her hand.
"You really only emphasize bike lanes. Did you discuss all bike infrastructure that could be useful for bikes, or is the group assuming bike lanes are all there will be?" she said.
That was the first indicator that the discussion would be more a marathon than a sprint.
ACHD asked the stakeholders to represent a broad spectrum of interest groups--bicycle advocates, road maintenance crews, business owners, Boise State University administrators, police officers and even the president of the Idaho Trucking Association.
The group was formed shortly after ACHD removed buffered bike lanes from downtown corridors in early June (BW, Citydesk, "ACHD Kills Continuation," June 4, 2014).
Initially, ACHD said it had hoped for recommendations within 60 days, but sitting through the July 15 stakeholder meeting--the group's second gathering--implied that the 60-day goal was more likely wishful thinking.
During the first meeting, on June 25, stakeholders were assigned homework to research in particular fields of expertise. On July 15, the group reconvened to share its findings in a two-hour session with topics drifting from education strategies to traffic congestion, parking, downtown business deliveries, street maintenance, public safety, bike laws, two-way street conversions, signal timing and different bike lane models.
"We want to avoid the bike-versus-car argument," Boise Bicycle Project's Jimmy Hallyburton said during his presentation. "This is an education opportunity not just for bikes, but for all road users."
By the end of the session, that 60-day target seemed further away than ever. Craig Quintana, spokesman for ACHD, later told Boise Weekly that the goal may have been a little too optimistic.
"It seems doubtful," he said.
Dave Wallace, deputy director of planning and projects at ACHD, steered the meeting and chose to remain positive through the discussion, saying he thought it went pretty well.
"I think we're actually making progress," he said, adding that stakeholders highlighted several issues he hadn't considered.
Going forward, the plan is to break down the stakeholders into an even smaller committee to streamline the process of coming up with three alternatives, which will be presented to the larger group at its next meeting Tuesday, Aug. 5. Wallace said this level of community involvement is not the norm for ACHD.
"I haven't seen us do this before," he said, "but I'm not sure we've ever done a pilot project like this before, either. I think it was pretty successful in uncovering both concerns and successes."
Wallace ended the session on a can-do note.
"The next time we get together, we're going to roll up our sleeves and work this stuff out," he said.