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Officials revive downtown Boise street conversion project

A view of downtown Boise taken from the depot – buildings like the capitol, U.S. Bank and Grove hotel can be seen with foothills sprawling in the background.
Kelsey Thomson
/
Boise State Public Radio

A project converting 5th and 6th streets in downtown Boise to two-way traffic is back on the table after having been in the works for years.

Officials with the Ada County Highway District and Capital City Development Corporation will give an update Thursday morning.

ACHD approved the project in 2017, but it was quickly put on ice. Now, with the CCDC splitting the $6.2 million cost, it’s starting to thaw out.

Drivers traveling south along 6th Street or northbound on 5th Street at times have up to three lanes of traffic.

Because of other east-west one-way streets in the area, people who miss their turns have to travel at least four extra blocks to correct that mistake.

“One-ways make it incredibly difficult to try and navigate and get access through a city,” said Jordyn Neerdaels, a spokesperson for CCDC.

Boise’s former fire chief, Dennis Doan, agreed, also citing safety benefits of slowing traffic and improving emergency vehicle access to buildings in the area in a 2017 letter to ACHD.

Neerdaels said streets with two-way vehicle traffic actually helps businesses there attract more customers.

“Their foot traffic improves because people are driving slower through the corridor. They’re looking and paying attention to the businesses on either side of them,” she said.

That vehicle congestion, though, was seen by many as a negative, including former governor Butch Otter.

“While we understand the desire to make downtown more user friendly for bikes and pedestrians, that should not be done at the expense of State employees who live outside downtown Boise and rely on vehicle traffic corridors,” Otter wrote.

A survey in 2017 found 65% of respondents opposed the conversion as well.

Design work is expected to begin over the next 12 months, with construction estimated to wrap up within a couple of years, according to Neerdaels.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!