Tommy Ahlquist said he can't think of a more important project to Downtown Boise's long-term prospects than building a public transportation hub in its core.
The chief operating officer for the Gardner Co., which is a month away from finishing the 8th and Main building and recently bought the US Bank Plaza, told Ada County Highway District commissioners Wednesday that it would be easier to develop the plaza without including the transit center. That's because adding retail, office and parking space to the plaza is a project Gardner could handle itself. The transit center requires involvement of Valley Regional Transit, Ada and Canyon counties' regional transportation that has tried unsuccessfully for years to find a home for the center.
But Gardner sees better public transportation as a crucial element to Downtown Boise's future, Ahlquist said, so the hub is worth a challenge.
Gardner's preliminary plans for the transit center call for buses to enter it from Capitol Boulevard south of Main Street. The buses would turn left and travel down a ramp to a 40,000-square-foot oblong area 20 feet underground. That area, which the company would dig out just west of an existing underground parking area, would have room for about eight bus loading and unloading stalls, waiting areas, a ticketing area and a Boise police substation that the city has long hoped to incorporate with the transit center.
Buses leaving the station would go up a ramp and come out on Main Street, then travel east to 5th Street before turning into their routes. There's not enough room for the buses to cross several lanes of Main Street traffic and turn north on Capitol, Ahlquist said.
Gardner is hoping to break ground on the transit center at the same time it begins building a retail, office and parking area on what is now a surface parking lot just west of the US Bank building. That could happen sometime in the summer of 2014, Ahlquist said.