Ada County Highway District puts the brakes on Boise's vehicle detection sensors

csewell@idahostatesman.comAugust 28, 2013 

The Ada County Highway District Commission on Wednesday reversed its decision to allow the city of Boise to embed vehicle-detection sensors in the pavement of nearly 800 Downtown parking meter spaces.

The sensors are wirelessly paired with a parking meter to send a signal whenever a vehicle enters or exits a space.

The city has already purchased nearly 200 of the sensors and had installed 68 of them before an ACHD inspector stopped the work in June. The city at the time did not have the highway district's permission to cut into the roadway and install the sensors, which are then covered with epoxy.

Under state law, nearly all Downtown Boise streets are ACHD’s responsibility; the city has control of the sidewalks, parking meters and parking revenues.

City officials said they do not need permission from ACHD to install the sensors because the sensors are a parking function, but they agreed to enter an agreement with ACHD. Under the agreement, the city would be responsible for maintaining the sensors and paying for any roadway damage caused by the sensors.

The ACHD Commission on July 24 voted 3-2 to grant the city the license. But on July 29, Commissioner Rebecca Arnold, who voted to approve the license, asked to reconsider the matter because she had learned new information, including the option to mount the sensors on the parking meter pole or on the curb. That step would take ACHD and its roadways out of the picture altogether.

In May, ACHD Deputy Director Bruce Mills told the city if the ACHD Commission chose not to allow the sensors, "you will be required to remove the sensors you previously installed."

The city can still install its new “smart” parking meters, which are easily programmed and accept credit and debit cards, but not the accompanying vehicle detection sensors.

City Council President Maryanne Jordan said Wednesday the sensors would help Boise gather better data on how parking meters are used. The council earlier this summer decided to hold off on increasing parking meter hours and fees until council members had more information.

Boise is now considering its options for the vehicle detection sensors, including possibly taking legal action against ACHD.

ACHD Commissioner Jim Hansen said he doesn't want that to happen because ACHD would lose.

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