Patty A. Miller: Proposed changes in Downtown Boise should be given red light

April 21, 2014 

"The City recognizes the importance of Capitol Boulevard and desires to protect and enhance its special character. Capitol Boulevard is one of the principal gateway streets in the State of Idaho."

It's hard to believe that only 13 months after the release of the Boise Development Code with the Capitol Boulevard Special Design District section noted above (March 2013) that Ada County Highway District commissioners will be making a decision at their April 23 meeting to close the left lane of Capitol Boulevard so that buses can turn south from Main Street, run contra-traffic down Capitol Boulevard, and turn into an entry for the proposed Multi-Modal Center. If this is allowed, Capitol Boulevard will be changed forever.

The solution to the contra-flow lane on Capitol Boulevard is a Main Street entry ramp. Buses would enter and exit on separate ramps in the right lane of Main Street between 9th and Capitol.

On-street bus parking could be provided for elsewhere. This would eliminate the trashing of Idaho's grand boulevard and would save the driving public from having to avoid buses trying to make a right-hand turn onto Capitol Boulevard without taking out the unlucky vehicle waiting in the center lane at the light.

The sad thing is, the proposed new transit center isn't even large enough to accommodate all of its needs - eight buses can fit in the underground facility. Four must remain on street level. This does not take into consideration the growth that is anticipated in the bus system and what its future needs may be.

The second concern is the proposed new Boise Centre expansion and an 18-foot pedestrian tunnel planned from the Grove Plaza to Capitol Boulevard. Go down to the Grove Plaza, look north to 8th Street, west to the Linen District and south to BoDo, and then take a good look east down the Grove Street Corridor. This area includes the Basque Block with historic and cultural buildings, but also is the spoke leading to the Ada County Courthouse and is an area of planned future growth in the Downtown area.

Gardner Co., the developer that purchased the U.S. Bank property last summer, is working with the Greater Boise Auditorium District to build a parking garage and ballroom on its property behind the bank. Only an 18-foot pedestrian easement survives after land exchanges and purchases over the years. All of the other spokes to the Grove Plaza are 28 feet wide and are open-aired. Even a grand new entry proposed for the Boise Centre facility is 28 feet wide. The east spoke is proposed to remain at 18 feet wide with a building cantilevered over the top, thus creating a tunnel for pedestrians to walk from the Grove Plaza to Capitol Boulevard and eliminating the view of any citizen or tourist of the Grove Street Corridor.

In discussions over the past two months we have continued to offer these two changes to the proposed transit facility and Boise Centre expansion projects. If you are concerned about saving the integrity of Capitol Boulevard as "one of the principal gateway streets in the State" or about providing a better connection that links the Grove Plaza to the East Grove Corridor, then now is your time to speak up! Attend the public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the ACHD hearing room, 3775 Adams St., Garden City or email: tellus@achdidaho.org and attend the Design Review Committee meeting at Boise City Hall at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 7.

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