Last July, the Boise City Council approved St. Luke’s Health System’s proposed $400 million expansion of its Downtown Boise hospital campus. The expansion, if it goes forward, would include the closure of Jefferson Street between Avenue B and 1st Street.
On Wednesday, almost a year after the council’s decision, Ada County Highway District’s board of commissioners will hear arguments for why that two-block section of road should or shouldn’t be closed. The highway district controls public roads throughout the county, so its board has final say on whether Jefferson is closed or stays open.
The commissioners’ meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the highway district’s headquarters, located at 3775 Adams St. in Garden City.
The St. Luke’s proposal to close part of Jefferson is by far the most controversial point in its plans to expand the Downtown campus. Hospital officials say it’s necessary for transitioning to a “horizontally integrated” care model.
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The idea is to put related services on the same floor, fostering collaboration between doctors and other health care professionals, St. Luke’s representatives say. That way, patients can get faster service, which hopefully will help ensure proper treatment and faster recovery.
St. Luke’s says closing Jefferson would allow the hospital to build a much bigger floor on the first five stories, enabling the horizontal model.
But, as Mayor Dave Bieter pointed out last July, closing a road as popular as Jefferson is a big deal. Dozens of people who live in the East End neighborhood just east of the St. Luke’s campus use that section of Jefferson Street to move between their neighborhood and Downtown. They’re worried that closing it will cut them off.
As a condition of approving the St. Luke’s expansion, the City Council required the hospital to surrender a 28-foot-wide easement where Bannock Street once lay between Avenue B and 1st Street. That section of Bannock was closed in the 1990s.
It’s unclear if the new Bannock easement would be open to cars or if it would be for foot and bicycle traffic only.