Friday, April 9, 2010

The Law of Unintended Consequences

At ACHD's regular meeting on April 7, 2010, we had an issue that would generally be considered terribly boring, but which shows how governments can focus solely on the here and now and totally ignore the future and unintended consequences.

A developer came to us with the architect for a church building site located on Ten Mile Rd just south of Chinden Blvd. Ten Mile is classified as a principal arterial and will, over time, be five lanes and carry a lot of traffic. Eagle Rd and Fairview Ave are also principal arterials so you get the idea of that. The proposal was a preliminary plat: whatever is approved at that level gets vested with rights. In other words, you can't allow something on a preliminary plat, approve it and then at the final plat stage change your mind.

The church site is directly south of a road leading to a future subdivision. The church will have access to this subdivision road, but the church also wanted an access to Ten Mile. The parking lot was designed to have these two accesses. However, ACHD doesn't care what the internals of a project are, just what the impacts of the project are on the public roadway system. It is up to the city, in this case Meridian, to determine whether the site plan is appropriate or not.

ACHD staff disagreed that there should be an full access directly onto Ten Mile, but compromised with the developer/church by proposing that the direct access to Ten Mile be a right in/right out access and that a median be placed in the middle of Ten Mile to prevent left hand turns across traffic. This would have the effect of prodding drivers who want to go left, to first have to go right for a ways south on Ten Mile and then make a u-turn somewhere.

Anyway, this configuration of church/subdivision is identical to another that I saw many years ago when I was on the Boise City Council. It was on Eagle Rd, south of McMillan and a church came to us wanting an access, their own access, to Eagle Rd. Directly abutting their property to the south was the entrance to the Mahogany Subdivision which, of course, also directly led to Eagle Rd. At that time Eagle was nothing like it is today, but it was always envisioned to carry a lot of traffic and we were always aware that too many cuts onto Eagle would not be a good thing. I vividly remember stating that the subdivision and the church should share an access point. We were told by ACHD that this was impossible, that both uses were allowed their own access. Well, at the end of the day, there are now two access points, within a few hundred feet of each other, on Eagle Rd., one of the most, if not the most, heavily traveled state roads in Idaho.

When I first got on the ACHD commission, I was assigned to participate in the Fairview Ave access study. This study is looking at the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of access points onto Fairview Ave between Orchard St in Boise, to Linder in Meridian. The goal is to limit the number of accesses to one every 1/4 mile or so, increase cross access easements and in the end have a principal arterial that flows and is safe. This is going to take decades and perhaps quite a bit of money to buy those accesses back from property owners.

So back to Ten Mile.

We were being asked to create on Ten Mile what we know doesn't work on Fairview and Eagle Rds. While the recommendation to have a right in/right out access was proposed to be accommodating, and it wouldn't have that much impact today, the unintended consequences, which are readily forseeable, were kind of ignored.

In the end, common sense prevailed. I made the motion to approve the plat with access only off of the subdivision road to the north. If this requires a replatting of the internal parking/circulation, so be it. The motion passed with Sherry Huber and Carol McKee agreeing. John Franden and Rebecca Arnold wanted the limited access option for some reason.

To me the decision was very easy. If we know that mistakes were made in the past we need to make sure those mistakes are avoided in the present and the future. If we have a policy, we need to stick to it. Circulation is bad enough in Ada County that we should not add to the problems.

Want to see the meeting? Oh you know you do. Go here and click on the video for Item #4 on the regular agenda. And enjoy.

UPDATE: We've been asked to reconsider our vote. I will make that motion and if it passes we can discuss the matter again. Seems that there was an error in that the staff said it was a principal arterial and it is actually a minor arterial. Anonymous commented this. Perhaps if they had given their credentials...... However, I still may not vote for the right in/right out, but since there was an error, the developer can remake their case.


At April 12, 2010 at 9:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ten Mile Road, south of Chinden, is a minor arterial as opposed to being a Principal Arterial like Fairview. Secondly private lot access to Eagle Road is determined by ITD, ACHD has no control over.

At April 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM , Blogger Sara said...

Actually, Ten Mile South of Chinden is a principal arterial. If not, then ACHD staff's statement is incorrect. Regardless, do we really want to botch up an arterial knowing full well what the consequences are?

And yes, Eagle is a state road. But the issue of accesses is the same. And at the time, many years ago, ACHD had input into the accesses on Eagle Rd.


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