See your new way of making left turns on State Street at Veterans Memorial Parkway
If you drive through the intersection of State and Glenwood streets in northwest Boise, you know it’s busy. With new housing projects coming nearby, traffic will only get heavier.
It’s the ninth busiest intersection in Ada County, with 60,000 cars per day, according to the Ada County Highway District’s most recent study, in 2014 (Eagle Road at Fairview tops that list). Between 2011 and 2015, 112 crashes were reported there.
That’s why ACHD and the Idaho Transportation Department are preparing to rebuild the intersection. It is now seeking public comments on three top designs that survived an initial round of public-feedback workshops and an online survey last summer.
All three designs would change the way drivers turn left through the intersection.
On Wednesday, the district held an open house at the Garden City Hall. One of the options seemed to be unpopular — the very option ACHD is using now as it rebuilds the State Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway intersection three miles east on State.
That option is called the “median U-turn” or sometimes a “thrU-turn” or a “Michigan left.” It would block westbound and eastbound traffic on State Street from making direct left turns. Instead, cars would continue through the traffic light and make a U-turn at another signal a few hundred feet after Glenwood. After the U-turn, they’d return to Glenwood and turn right.
The median U-turn fared better among developers, businesses and partner agencies last summer. However, one concern raised then is that trucks and other large vehicles might have trouble making the U-turns.
Several people at the open house Wednesday said they liked what the district is calling the “displaced left turn” configuration, which would send left-turning cars across oncoming lanes before the intersection to enter a new left-turn lane on the far left side of the road. From there, those cars would turn left at the same time through traffic goes straight.
That was the option preferred at a public-outreach workshop last August, too.
Meridian resident Liliana Vega, who works at the University of Idaho’s Ada County Extension on Glenwood Street, attended Wednesday’s open house. She said that option seemed to make the most sense, though she’d like to see longer turn lanes so that turning traffic doesn’t have to wait behind stopped through traffic.
But building longer turn lanes would require the highway district to take up more land with its project. That’s going to affect people who own businesses in the area — including Holley and Eric and Celeste Melendez, owners of E.M. Motors, a car lot on the northwest corner of the intersection.
All of the options for redoing the intersection would lop off some of the E.M. Motors property. It’s not clear how much would be taken, though. If it were enough, Celeste Melendez said, she and her husband might have to move the business. They’re not keen on that, because they’re worried moving to a dealership corridor like Fairview Avenue might cost them too much.
In the short term, Melendez said, the easiest option for E.M. Motors would be to leave the intersection as it is. Long-term, though, with traffic projected to keep getting heavier, she knows something will have to be done to ease congestion.
The third option is called the quadrant intersection. It resembles a figure 8. It makes left-turners turn right onto new side roads first before reaching the intersection. Cars then make their left turns at a location away from the central intersection.
Some open-house attendees were optimistic about ACHD’s efforts.
“All their options, with the exception of ‘do nothing,’ are good options,” said Eric Holley, owner of the Oliver Finley Plaza, a shopping center on the southwest corner of State and Glenwood. “It is a busy intersection and it is awkward, and the options that they’ve proposed seem like they are very efficient.”
But Dianne Hobbs, a colleague of Vega’s at the University of Idaho’s Ada County Extension on Glenwood Street, was less enthusiastic.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily going to help that much anyway,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs, who lives in Eagle, said she makes four trips on a typical workday through the intersection. Because of congestion, she has learned to avoid turning left from Glenwood on to State as she commutes home. Instead, she drives straight through State Street to Hill Road, then turns west.
Each option has its pros and cons, said Brandon Whallon, a project manager for Hawkins Cos., which is building a 323-apartment complex with a commercial strip near the northwest corner of Glenwood and State. Whallon said he didn’t have a favorite, but all of the reconfigurations would reduce congestion.
“All of them help alleviate congestion that (the district) can see coming,” he said.
Whatever ACHD decides, construction is likely five years away or more.
The projects at Glenwood Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway are both part of the overall State Street Corridor Plan, which anticipates an eventual seven-lane road to Idaho 55, with bike lanes, sidewalk and transit lanes.
Not everyone thinks highway planners’ focus on widening State and improving the intersections are the proper focus.
Cynthia Gibson, executive director of the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, said ACHD and ITD should focus more on more pedestrian crossings and improved routes for bikes and buses.
“That road could become a more integrated part of our community,” Gibson said. “If we continue to build for single occupancy vehicles, we will only get more cars. They need to continue to look at this. We can’t build our way out of what we’re building ourselves into.”
Several people who attended Wednesday’s event said they liked the highway district’s proposal of a bridge over the intersection for foot and bicycle traffic only.
More open houses
Thursday, April 5: 6-7 p.m., Covenant Presbyterian Church, 4848 N. Five Mile Road, Boise.
Wednesday, April 11: 6-7 p.m., Eagle Public Library, 100 N. Stierman Way, Eagle.
Thursday, April 12: 6-7 p.m., Marion Bingham Room (third floor), Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise.
Can’t make an open house?
▪ David Corcoran, ACHD planning and programming, (208) 387-6252 or email@example.com
▪ Mark Wasdahl, ITD senior planner, (208) 334-8344, firstname.lastname@example.org