The Boise City Council made a tough but wise call Tuesday when it voted to approve the $400 million St. Luke’s Master Plan expansion.
As difficult as it is to weigh the good of a hospital expansion against the good and legitimate concerns of a neighborhood that fears negative impacts, we applaud the 4-to-1 vote for the project’s approval. Furthermore, we appreciate the attention and access the city facilitated for months, including the nearly eight-hour public forum on June 30.
That said, the council’s vote in favor of the expansion does not completely settle the matter. The Ada County Highway District still must approve a critical part of the plan: allowing the hospital to vacate a block-long section of Jefferson Street to make way for expanded emergency services and other improvements. We are told that could take weeks or months before a decision is made.
Whenever the issue is considered, we urge ACHD to approve the Jefferson closure because of the critical nature of these clinical upgrades that will save lives and expedite the treatment of the seriously ill when seconds count the most.
Should the project pass that hurdle as well, the hospital is beholden to the council, the neighborhood and all of Boise to consider the feasibility of reopening Bannock Street (between Avenue B and 1st Street) to more traffic. We can imagine and have seen plans to include Bannock in the pedestrian and bicycle picture of the expansion, but we must admit that opening it to vehicle traffic is a challenging goal.
As it stands, this section of Bannock — closed since the 1990s — is of similar size and resembles a walkway in an outdoor pedestrian mall. Brick-paved and treed, it appears to be the very kind of respite that patients, their families and caregivers need: an island of calm amid the bustle of health care. Plus, this Bannock walking area is the main path for people getting back and forth to the hospital parking garage.
The city will certainly study this and ACHD will get involved. We fully expect more public involvement as well. The neighborhood deserves an honest assessment of the Bannock possibilities, just as it deserves the hospital’s ongoing attention to mitigating a host of other concerns regarding traffic, children on their way to school and commuters on their way to work
Should the St. Luke’s project get final approval, that is tantamount to Boise placing complete trust in its hospital neighbor, the way a patient trusts a physician. Neighbors must do well by each other in a caregiving atmosphere, or all else is lost.
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email email@example.com.
Disclosure: Publisher Michael Jung, a member of the Statesman Editorial Board, serves on a St. Luke’s Strategic Initiatives Committee.