Expect slow going on key stretch of I-84

Idaho's busiest commuter route will be 25 percent narrower most of 2014-15.

krodine@idahostatesman.comJuly 12, 2014 

  • BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

    Drivers between Boise and Nampa and parts west can expect more changes next week.

    Westbound Interstate 84 traffic at Nampa's Northside Boulevard overpass will shift to a temporary construction configuration early in the week and stay that way until early August, the Idaho Transportation Department announced Friday.

    The temporary configuration will separate the two westbound lanes so that one lane will remain on the westbound bridge and the other will be diverted to the eastbound bridge.

    A similar project started in June for eastbound traffic at Northside Boulevard. That lane reconfiguration, to accommodate the railroad-bridge reconstruction, is expected to wrap up around the end of this month, ITD said.

If you commute to Boise from Canyon County or Meridian during peak hours, it just got much slower to summit that peak.

The construction constriction is necessary to give workers adequate space to improve the storm-drain system and pave the median as part of the Meridian Road interchange project, the Idaho Transportation Department says.

Where's the holdup?

It started Thursday morning on eastbound Interstate 84 between Meridian Road and Five Mile Road. For that four-plus miles, the freeway narrows from four lanes to three.

And in a couple of weeks, commuters will encounter the same squeeze going the other direction, as the westbound also will be reduced to three lanes.

How long?

Get used to the new configuration. It will stay in place until winter, when it's too cold for the contractor to do the work. Then, after a cold-season return to four lanes, that stretch of I-84 will be narrowed again, in both directions.

How bad is it?

Drivers during morning rush hour reported their commuting time doubled or nearly doubled. But those who hit the road around 7 a.m. or after 9 should see few delays despite the lack of a fourth lane, ITD spokesman Reed Hollinshead said.

"ITD urges everyone who is traveling on I-84 to leave early; and when driving through the work zone, please remember to slow down and pay attention," said ITD Project Engineer Jayme Coonce.

Not slowing down could get you a ticket: The speed limit is reduced from 65 to 55 for that four miles.

How busy is it?

That stretch of I-84 is the busiest freeway in the state, Hollinshead said, especially the portion between the Flying Wye and Five Mile, which carries about 115,000 vehicles per day. Eastbound, that section of heavy traffic starts at the Eagle Road interchange.

The expanse of freeway between Eagle and Meridian roads handles more than 100,000 vehicles per day, Hollinshead said.

Why start now?

"Summer is the best time for construction," Hollinshead said. "It's also when people don't want construction. We get complaints every summer."

Warm weather makes it easier for pavement to adhere to the underlying surface, making roads last longer and giving taxpayers "more bang for the buck," he said.

The long daylight hours also make much of the work easier and faster, he said.

What hours will crews work?

Work is scheduled 24/7 until late 2015, not counting the winter hiatus. Although ITD often schedules work for overnight only, avoiding the heaviest traffic times, that wouldn't be appropriate for this project, Hollinshead said. In addition to needing daylight and warm temperatures, the already-lengthy project would take much longer if the work were limited to nighttime hours.

"We've heard repeatedly from citizens that if there's a choice to have a more significant impact for a shorter time, they'll take that," he said.

Kristin Rodine: 377-6447

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