Boise & Garden City

Whose lane is it anyway? Bad paint and bad plans drive Boise commuters nuts

Driving into Downtown Boise has been a little confusing lately. Driving out hasn’t been much better.

The striping on Main Street and Fairview Avenue, particularly between Whitewater Park Boulevard and 16th Street, has been all over the road, thanks to a project that Natalie Shaver, a spokeswoman for the Ada County Highway District, said “worked well on paper but not so well in real life.”

ACHD is tasked with managing most of the roads across Ada County. That includes painting the lines on the roads.

On Main and Fairview, the wonky stripes started with a microsealing project on July 8. A microseal is a fast-drying, asphalt-based sealant on the road. Microsealing is typically a cost-efficient way to protect roads, Shaver said.

After the microsealing was complete, ACHD restriped the lanes to make room for new bike lanes and left-turn lanes at intersections. The result was roads that are confusing to navigate, as lane stripes veer suddenly at intersections. Drivers would find that they would start in one lane and be shifted almost a whole lane over after passing through the intersection.

There were issues with the road design on paper, Shaver said. Making matters worse, officials have since learned that the lines weren’t painted as expected, she said.

After Main Street and Fairview Avenue were microsealed, ACHD re-striped the lanes to make room for new bike lanes. Tabs from the old lanes make the new stripes confusing. Main Street near 27th Street. Katherine Jones

The result has been a major headache for drivers. ACHD has identified four intersections where the lane-shift problem was happening, three of which the district says it will restripe. Starting Thursday night, crews will work to fix the intersections at 23rd and Fairview, 23rd and Main, and 27th and Main.

The fourth intersection, 27th and Fairview, isn’t as bad, Shaver said, so it won’t be adjusted for now.

Crews water-blasted some of the questionable lines over the weekend to try to remove the offending paint without ruining the microseal. Drivers may notice a color difference in the microsealed pavement now.

Experts told ACHD on Wednesday that the microseal was still intact. That gave officials a green light to water-blast and restripe the other wayward lines.

For now, drivers also might see tabs that workers installed to delineate the old lanes, but Shaver said those will be removed soon. Those have often been side-by-side with new striping, causing further confusion.

It’s not clear how much this project will ultimately cost. Shaver said ACHD does not have the revised plans with the new price tag yet. The initial plans cost $419,820, but part of that money remains unspent because the plans were not carried out completely and materials were not fully used.

After Main Street and Fairview Avenue were microsealed, ACHD re-striped the lanes to make room for new bike lanes. Traffic here is headed into Downtown on West Fairview Avenue at 23rd Street. Katherine Jones

She said she did not know the name of the contractor who did the painting.

“Part of it now is: We have to figure out what is our mistake,” Shaver said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We still have to figure out who is responsible for what, et cetera.”

Depending on the weather, the restriping should be complete in the next few days, she said. It shouldn’t affect the new bike lanes.

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Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.