Thursday, February 25, 2010

Five Year Work Plan and the Shamrock Decision

Last night we had a very large public hearing on Shamrock and the Ustick Corridor Concept Plan. Too bad the media wasn't there, but then they very, very rarely are.

Shamrock will not be punched through. Sherry Huber proposed a compromise that was agreeable to everyone. Shamrock will not go through until Cloverdale and Five Mile are completed. However, during the construction of Ustick, conduit will be placed at the intersection of Shamrock and Ustick (Bryson was later included) to forestall the need to dig up the road if a signal is to go in sometime in the future. It is likely, however, that some type of pedestrian crossings including ped activated signals will go in along Ustick between Five Mile and Cloverdale and Cloverdale and Eagle Rd. In any event, the concept plan is just a concept providing the framework for more detailed drawings for construction. The public, on this part of Ustick, will be involved all the way through.

Congratulations to the neighborhood for getting the people out and involved. It makes a huge difference. If the East End/Harris Ranch had 1/4 the number of people at the roundabout hearing, it's likely the developer would be putting in the roundabout as we speak.

The Five Year Work Plan, sounds vaguely soviet no?, was passed last night. John Franden stated that this was a plan and not set in asphalt (road pun) and I absolutely concur. I voted for the FYWP even though I thought we should have paid more attention to the wishes of Meridian and Boise, the two largest cities in Ada County, and to Garden City.

Garden City's 36th St project was basically deleted which I didn't think was appropriate. And both Boise and Meridian had concerns about in what sequence Ustick Rd would be built, west to east, vs. east to west. We had a joint letter from the cities asking that we go from west to east as was envisioned for the past few years up until last week when we changed it. My fellow commisisoners were miffed that the letter showed up on the day of our hearing. However, since our meeting was on a Wednesday and Meridian and Boise meet on Tuesdays, there really was no other way of getting us a letter any earlier unless they invented a time machine. We really have a way to go before our relationships with other local governments are repaired and well functioning.

However, as I said, there is opportunity for the plan to be changed, the earliest being during the budget later this summer. We'll be having a joint meeting with Boise soon. Perhaps this could be a discussion topic.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crazytown Redux

A while back I wrote about how crazy things were at ACHD. Since then, there have been times when it seems like ACHD is kind of a normal government agency. Other times, it's back to being Crazytown. Today was one of those days.

The issue at hand was whether ACHD was going to allow a developer, at their expense, to build a roundabout on Warm Springs Ave near Harris Ranch. The roundabout would be a one lane roundabout since for at least 20 years that's the size that would be needed. If the road needed to be expanded around 2030, there is enough right of way to convert it to a 5 lane regular intersection with a signal. (Remember the date 2030, remember the number of years - 20, it will come in handy later.)

The ACHD Commission already had said, "No, we don't want a one lane roundabout" in December but then agreed to let the City of Boise and the developer and ACHD staff work it out. Consequently, we saw the issue again on February 17, 2010.

The City of Boise, the Boise School District and the Ada County Paramedics (for emergency access comments) all said they wanted a one lane roundabout. The Idaho Parks and Rec Department, whose land abuts the roundabout said they wanted a one lane roundabout but would not accept a two lane roundabout. The developer has already platted and built on the adjoining land so there is no more land available there and in any event they made it pretty clear that building a $220,000 roundabout with their own funds was all they were going to spend and they would NOT build a two lane roundabout. Oh, and the public weighed in in a number of meetings and said that they wanted a one lane roundabout.

We talk on the Commission a lot about roundabouts and how good they can be at moving traffic continuously. So here was an opportunity to put the developer's money where our mouth is.

And the upshot? There will be no roundabout because as Commissioner McKee so eloquently put it (and agreed to by President Huber), (and I'm paraphrasing but you can watch it on our website here) "our citizenry is going to get used to the roundabout and in 20 years when we have to expand the intersection we'll have to change from a roundabout to a regular intersection and it will be a PR nightmare because they'll be upset." Yep, we are worried that drivers 20 years from now might complain about a decision 20 years from now that may or may not have to be made but, woe is us, someone might be mad at us for a perfectly defensible decision. Oh, and to convert from a roundabout to a regular intersection (in 2030 or so - maybe) would cost taxpayers a whopping $10,000 to $20,000. Meanwhile we couldn't possibly let people enjoy the roundabout for 20 years.

Commissioner Arnold really didn't care about the issue so she voted no roundabout. Commissioner Franden agreed with me that we should go ahead and let the developer build the roundabout.

All in all, another day in Crazytown.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

See, ACHD Can Change

It may not be much, but it did take me raising the issue a few times over the past year. Once the other commissioners agreed to go forward, it took staff all of 2 weeks to make it a go.

ACHD has a new web name. No longer is it the dumb and old style I think we are the last governmental agency in the country to use this configuration.

It's now the much easier to remember Over the next six months you'll see the change on the equipment and the website and the literature. Both web addresses will work until the old one dies completely in August 2010.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Busiest Intersections in the Boise Area

It used to be that the busiest intersection in Boise was at Cole Rd and Fairview Ave. Now it doesn't even make the top 10. Since it's still seems busy, even with Cole School closed and torn down, this says something, although I don't know what.

The following are the top 10 busiest intersections. The data is from 2008 and includes traffic from all directions at a peak (rush) hour.

10 - Curtis & Fairview 5246 cars
9 - Gary Ln / Glenwood / State 5458
8 - Eagle & I-84 WB Ramps 5467
7 - Eagle & Franklin 5552
6 - Cole & Overland 5574
5 - 13th & Front 5576
4 - Chinden & Glenwood 5602
3 - Chinden & Eagle 5680
2 - 9th & Front 5811

and the winner is
Number One - Eagle & Fairview 6702

Now you know which areas to avoid at rush hour, as if you didn't already.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Shamrock and other items

Kind of a round up today.

* The ACHD Commission will be discussing the Shamrock/Ustick issue twice this month. Remember that ACHD wanted to punch Shamrock through to Ustick over the objections of both the neighborhood and the Boise City Council.

We will be "reviewing" the staff report, for lack of a better description, on February 17, 2010 at 10:30am. Then we'll be holding a public hearing on the issue February 24, 2010 at 6pm. Both meetings are open to the public so anyone can come and listen and speak.

The staff and the website boldly indicate that if you can't attend the meeting on the 24th, then please have your written comments in by February 15, 2010 so that they can be included in the staff report. You have to read further in regular type that if you wish to submit comments after that, well, that's still allowable. Personally, I thought this was wrong and I said so. Anyone should be able to submit written comments to the Commission even up to the day of the hearing. In my now 17 years of elected officialdom, I've never had a problem reading a letter on the day of a hearing. I can't imagine any of the other Commissioners wouldn't be able to do that as well.

If someone wants to submit comments to me on this or any other item, here's my e-mail.

* If you live on or use the dirt road part of Dry Creek, there will most likely be a public hearing in your future on how to continue to maintain this section, continue graveling, chipsealing or paving/rebuilding.

* The fund balance (loaned from the general fund/property tax) for impact fee projects improved a whole $200,000 from the last quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010. I think there's going to be a major discussion on this issue in the near future. Have impact fees lived up to their hype? Doesn't appear so.

* There may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon for ACHD and the Cities and Ada County having a Memorandum of Understanding for the Growth Management Alliance. You may remember the expense ACHD went to many years ago having the Urban Land Institute come in and present some suggestions for playing better together. Well, at long last that might happen. We'll see.

* Obviously, there's a lot of "future" stuff going to happen. You know the old government adage, never do today what you can put off til tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ITD Funding Same as ACHD!

I've been watching, with interest, the kerfuffle over the $70,000 PR groundbreaking expenses that the Idaho Transportation Department spent this last year or so. Apparently they used a "consultant" to great expense over their own PR apparatus to stage some of the more expensive groundbreakings. I was invited to the Vista groundbreaking but decided not to go, I mean how interesting would it have been? Now I regret not going - must have been some really good refreshments!

I was most struck by the numbers of PR staff ITD has and the cost of that department. They have 9.5 people and the budget is $640,000. Hey, it's just like ACHD. We have 7 people with a budget of $693,000. We're like the same!! Now the Idaho Department of Transportation does have a total budget of $511,666,100 with 1833.50 people. But, of course, that pales in comparison to ACHD's total budget of $77,700,000 with a total staff of 300 people.