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Plans to turn 8th street in Boise into a more bike-friendly corridor hit a speed bump

An illustration of a proposed bikeway with a person walking on the left side, someone biking and a line of cars parked.
Ada County Highway District

Ada County Highway District staff recommended a redesign of 8th street in Boise’s North End to make it a more bike-friendly corridor.

Following approximately seven months of planning, feedback and surveys, planners recommended eliminating one lane of traffic and one side of parking on 8th Street to create two protected bike lanes sandwiching a single northbound traffic lane and parking. 8th Street would not need to be widened.

The Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) already has similar plans for a two-block range of 8th between State and Franklin streets. The new concept is meant to complete the bikeway all the way to Union Street - the northwest corner of the Boise Co-Op building.

The recommendation was among three concepts presented to the Ada County Highway District Commission on April 27.

"People really liked the fact northbound and southbound bike lanes were provided with concept A, as well as maintaining existing landscaping,” CCDC's Zach Piepmeyer told ACHD commissioners.

Project managers received 182 comments on the proposal during two virtual public meetings, an online survey and during meetings with individual homeowners on 8th Street.

“Respondents generally disliked the on-street unprotected bike lanes associated with concepts B and C,” Piepmeyer said.

Those concepts salvaged some or all the existing parking capacity by placing one of two bike lanes between traffic and parking, the same way many bike lanes currently exist in the city.

Commissioners also reviewed parking and traffic data before more than a dozen members of the public weighed in on the proposal.

“This seems rushed,” said Tammy Emerich, Principal at St. Joseph’s Catholic School on 8th Street.

She did not feel there was enough time to inform stakeholders, and that more research on potential impacts to traffic is needed.

Emerich said the recommended plan eliminates the parking the school uses as its main pick-up and drop-off lane, creating a safety issue.

“We will have 390 students and their parents trying to find a place to park so they can safely walk their child across the street onto our campus,” Emerich told commissioners.

The recommended bikeway proposal would also remove parking used by parishioners at St. John’s Cathedral as defacto disabled parking; unmarked public parking spots in front of the cathedral that volunteers monitor and reserve during church functions for elderly and disabled attendees.

“That’s the only handicapped parking we have,” St. John’s Deacon Daniel Gamboa testified.

Emerich presented a petition urging the commission to drop the project entirely, or choose the option which did not impact parking.

She said 506 people signed the petition, more than two and a half times the number of people who provided feedback during the three-week survey period in January and February.

Emerich sent the St. Joseph’s community an email Sunday before the ACHD Commission meeting, asking for people to testify against the bikeway proposal. That message also referenced a previous email asking people in the school and church community to provide feedback via ACHD’s online survey.

“Unfortunately, our requests were not taken into account,” she wrote to families April 24.

The ACHD survey received 149 responses, and most indicated support for the proposed changes. Emerich did not respond to an email requesting comment.

At the April 27 commission meeting, public testimony was almost entirely against the bikeway proposal, and commissioners had additional concerns, too.

“I think this is [the] time: I would ask the city of Boise to revisit the conversion of 8th and 9th back to two-way [traffic] north of State Street,” said Commission 2nd Vice President Jim Hansen.

In a voice vote, the commission voted to defer the decision until its May 25 meeting.

This story has been updated with the full name of St. Joseph's Catholic School.