Meridian is taking the first steps toward widening the increasingly busy Linder Road and building a new overpass at its intersection with Interstate 84 — a corridor that has seen an onslaught of new developments in the last year, with more to come.
The city is willing to dangle money in front of state and local highway agencies to entice them to do the work sooner than they want.
At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Mayor Tammy de Weerd said Meridian will offer to commit some of its own funds to the $12 million project, though she did not say how much. Other overpasses are funded by the Idaho Transportation Department and the Ada County Highway District.
Previously, the city contributed about $1 million to buy the right of way for the Locust Grove Road overpass. The overpass was built in 2007 by ITD, with road widening done by ACHD.
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In an email to the Statesman, De Weerd said that before the Locust Grove Road overpass, Meridian and Eagle had interchanges but no overpasses. “This local contribution was the only reason that overpass got built,” she said.
At an ACHD meeting about a year ago, Councilman Ty Palmer first proposed using excess revenue from the city Community Development Department, which issues building permits to developers, to help pay for the mile-long stretch on Linder Road.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Council President Joe Borton asked if the council would have a problem doing so. “If the city is going to explore discussions on using general fund dollars on infrastructure that is another agency’s responsibility — if there is any hesitation to do that, let’s find out now,” he said.
But no council member objected.
Currently, one lane runs in each direction on Linder Road, which ends when it approaches I-84 from the north and south. The project proposes widening the road to two lanes in each direction and adding a center turn lane from Overland Road north to Franklin Road.
A new overpass could alleviate traffic on parallel roads, such as Black Cat, Ten Mile and Cloverdale, according to a report by the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho, the regional planning agency. It would also slightly reduce the number of miles traveled and the number of hours of delay.
Linder Road has seen several new residential and commercial developments in recent years. Most notably, construction is expected to begin this year on Linder Village, a new retail area at Linder Road and Chinden Boulevard that will be anchored by a WinCo supermarket.
Caleb Hood, Meridian’s planning division manager, said that in talks so far between the city and ACHD, highway district officials have agreed that the LInder project is important but not the city’s most critical need for the next fiscal year. At the top of ACHD’s list is widening Locust Grove between Victory and Overland Roads.
The Idaho Transportation Department is in even less of a rush. “From ITD’s perspective, this is not on their radar,” Hood said. “It’s going to take some work to accelerate this.”
Without incentives to begin work next year, it could be 2026 before the overpass and widening are done, since the project is not on ACHD’s five-year plan.
Hood proposed that the project use only state and local funds, since using federal funds could add requirements and slow the process further, he said.
The City Council and the ACHD Commission will meet at noon next Thursday, Feb. 21, to discuss the project as well as the city’s other transportation needs.