To everyone stuck in traffic on Eagle Road, sorry, there’s no quick fix in sight. But there is an explanation for your worsening pain.
It’s official: The population of Meridian has just crested 100,000.
The Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho announced Tuesday that the state’s second-largest city has a population of 106,410. That’s a more than tenfold jump from the number of residents who called Meridian home in 1990.
Back then, Meridian was a puny 9,596, or just a little bigger than tiny Middleton is today.
Joe Borton, president of the Meridian City Council, credits a definite recipe with attracting families and businesses to his Treasure Valley metropolis at a pace that makes it a darling of U.S. Census Bureau news releases and breathless media coverage.
Hitting the 100K milestone is a positive, Borton said, “if it’s a byproduct of growing the right way.” And in Meridian, he said, it is. “It’s a testament of a safe city, doing the right things the right way: public safety, recreational opportunities, clear goals and expectations of new development and existing businesses, a healthy and fair tax climate.
“It’s a recipe for a successful city,” he continued. “Meridian does it very well.”
Meridian has tripled in size since Borton moved there 21 years ago. He says it’s been exciting to watch the once tiny city grow. When he was president of the Meridian Chamber of Commerce in 2002, he said, “we could tell you who the big employer was. But now we’re blessed with many small, five-and-under employers and many large ones, 100 and over.”
But as everyone with a pulse in the Treasure Valley knows, growth does come at a price. One of those challenges, as politicians like to call them, is traffic. Eagle Road is Exhibit A for the high price of new residents.
Craig Quintana, spokesman for the Ada County Highway District, said the stretch of Eagle Road south of Franklin Road is “the busiest non-freeway road in Ada County and probably the state, but we don’t keep statistics for all 43 other counties.” That stretch, of course, is solidly Meridian.
On March 15, 2016, the most recent statistics available, that portion of Eagle “was rocking 58,025 vehicle trips in 24 hours,” Quintana said, and the stretch of Eagle between Franklin and Fairview Avenue had 54,038 vehicle trips.
In case you were wondering – and if you’ve ever sat at the light during rush hour, you already know this – the intersection of Eagle and Fairview “is the busiest surface street intersection in the county and, as far as we know, the state,” he said. “That one has been rocking the top of the list. It’s still the reigning champion and won’t be deposed for some time.”
Carl Miller, COMPASS’s principle planner for demographics, said the kind of growth that Meridian is experiencing has an upside along with the downside of traffic congestion, disappearing farmland and crowded schools.
“There are more jobs and more shopping,” Miller said. “Meridian is still listed as one of those ‘Best Places to Live.’ They’re doing a really good job. There are things they can improve on. Along with the opportunities there are challenges, and they’re facing them head on.”
Housing is one area in which Meridian is excelling. Miller said the fast-growing city has been shouldering nearly 30 percent of the region’s housing needs since 2010.
COMPASS also said that Nampa is closing in on 100,000; with 98,370 residents, it should reach the big milestone in 2019. Caldwell passed 50,000 in 2015. Eagle crested 25,000 in 2016. Boise hit 232,300 this year, a jump of more than 9,000 in the last year.
Still, Meridian is the poster child for rapid growth.
“Meridian has been a faster grower than expected,” Miller said. “We all anticipated that Meridian would grow fast, but Meridian is fast even by Meridian standards.”