An overflow crowd greeted Ada County Highway District commissioners Wednesday night as they opened a public hearing on St. Luke's Health System's request to close a two-block stretch of Jefferson Street in Downtown Boise.
St. Luke's leaders and supporters reiterated their belief that closing Jefferson would enable an improvement of health-care services. That improvement relies on increasing the size of the hospital's floor plates, they said, so that a variety of related treatment types can be accomplished on the same level, speeding up response to injuries and illness.
Opponents of the closure said St. Luke's hasn't demonstrated the hospital needs the closure to achieve the hoped-for service improvement, and certainly hasn't shown that the public benefit of the renovation outweighs the public detriment of permanently blocking a popular street.
"What works best for St. Luke's is not necessarily what's best for the public," said Deanna Smith, who serves on the neighborhood association's board.
Many, though not all, of the people who spoke against the St. Luke's plan live in the East End neighborhood, directly east of the hospital's Downtown campus. They fear losing what they describe as a vital connection to and through Downtown.
"We need a road. We need a connection," Smith said.
Commissioners called an overnight recess after four hours of discussion and testimony on the St. Luke’s proposal. They are scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. Thursday and render a decision.