Boise & Garden City

ACHD tried to solve a traffic problem. What it did divided a Boise neighborhood deeply

Ada County Highway District commissioners hope Wednesday was the last time they will hear from neighbors in the Boise Highlands about a traffic diversion that has pit the neighborhood against itself.

Residents of East Braemere Road and the upper Highlands neighborhood say the diverter inconveniences them and is not safe in emergency situations.

Residents downstream on West Braemere say the diverter — a set of signs guiding traffic against entering West Braemere from East Breamere or West Curling Drive — keeps the residents safe, allows them to use the road for walking or biking, and reduces the amount of “cut-through” traffic by Highlands drivers seeking a shortcut to Downtown.

The diverter was installed three years ago, but the controversy has been stoked lately by worries about added traffic from the Highlands Cove subdivision being built east of the Crane Creek Country Club and by construction of a new Highlands Elementary School.

The dispute took up nearly four hours of Wednesday night’s commission meeting.

Several residents said the neighborhood feud has caused low attendance at neighborhood picnics and other events.

More than 300 people signed a petition to have ACHD temporarily remove the diverter while construction on the Highlands Elementary School, at 3434 N. Bogus Basin Road, continues. Removing the diverter would create a second egress while construction continues.

Laura Barton, spokeswoman for the Highlands Nines Homeowners Association, said the diverter prevents safe and smooth traffic flow during the construction.

But only a handful of the more than 55 people who spoke in front of ACHD on Wednesday favored removing the diverter. Most people said it was doing exactly what it was meant to do.

Dave Fotsch, director of the Boise GreenBikes and a resident at 802 W. Braemere Road, said the street is intended to be a “low-speed, low-volume” road that provides access to homes.

He said that before the diverter, 80% of trips through West Braemere were cut-through traffic. The diverter reduced overall traffic by 70%.

The diverter has been an issue before ACHD and the Boise City Council since it was installed. The council supports maintaining the diverter as is. After Wednesday’s testimony, the highway commissioners decided to keep it in place.

The commissioners are tired of the fighting.

“All this is doing is ripping a scab off a sore, and pouring salt and lemon on it and keeping the neighborhood roiled,” Commissioner Sara Baker said. “We can’t keep devoting a lot of time to the Highlands. It needs to be settled.”

Commission President Rebecca Arnold and Commissioner Mary May opposed keeping the diverter in place and wanted to grant the petition request. They said the road could act as a detour during construction of Highlands Elementary if the diverter were not there.

Arnold also said West Braemere is acting as a private road, because people cannot access it, and the traffic problems the diverter stopped have just been shifted to other roads.

“By closing that street, … we have effectively made it a private street that is being maintained by taxpayers who are prohibited from using it,” Arnold said.

Baker and Commissioners Kent Goldthorpe and Jim Hansen voted to keep the diverter in place.

“I do think the fact that we have so much angst and controversy and uproar in the neighborhood indicates that we didn’t make a great decision two years ago,” Arnold said at the start of the meeting. “The fact that there’s so much controversy indicates that it’s not working. It may be working for some people, but it’s not working for our community.”

Related stories from Idaho Statesman