Wednesday, June 9, 2010

See, We CAN Work Together

Today, the ACHD Commission hosted a number of local elected officials to present information on the potential Three Cities River Crossing and get some feedback. We had participation from Garden City, Boise, Eagle, Meridian and Ada County.

Lisa Applebee of ACHD presented an overview of the history of the project with the end result being a build v a no build decision we must make in the near future. This bridge was to provide another crossing over the Boise River between Eagle Rd and Glenwood to relieve traffic from the existing bridges. This was originally a recommendation out of the Bench-Valley Transportation Study in the early 1990's. The preferred alternative has one entrance/exit at the north end linking to State Hwy 55 and then a coat hook effect at the south entrance/exit linking to Cloverdale Rd and Mountain View/Mulberry. The cost of the bridge will range from $60 million to $83 million, but could possibly be well over $100 million when all is said and done.

It was pointed out, however, that this is really a state bridge. It connects Hwy 44 (State St) with Hwy 20/26 (Chinden Blvd). The four intersections on which traffic will be lessened are also intersections of state highways. Cloverdale Rd and Mountain View Dr and Mulberry Ave are local roads, generally residential. Does it really make sense for Ada County taxpayers to spend local dollars on a bridge that by its construction will increase traffic on residential streets? At such a huge cost?

There were a number of ideas expressed for the funding of the bridge. A bond election (unlikely with a 66/23 plus one threshold), a toll road (a private equity firm would have to be approached on this and sold on the idea) or federal funding. Regarding the latter, it is becoming apparent that with the debt load of the federal government, local areas and states are not going to see large amounts of federal funding in the coming years. It would not be prudent to begin a project of this magnitude on the basis of assuming federal funding was going to be there and then find half way through that the money spigot was turned off leaving it to Ada County to fund. (And philosophically, should Ada County ever assume that taxpayers in California or Oklahoma or Boston fund what is not a bridge of federal significance? Certainly, Ada County would feel irritated at having our tax dollars go to fund a parochial use in another state or city.)

If ACHD were to fund this bridge totally out of local funds, it would wipe out our entire capital budget for 3-5 years, depending on the total cost. In other words, no other project would be built in Ada County except the bridge for that period of time.

It was a very thoughtful discussion and one that could not take place without every one being in the same room at the same time hearing the same thing.

Interestingly, both Eagle and Boise indicated this project was never high on their transportation wish lists.

The COMPASS Board will hear the presentation on June 21 and will decide on a recommendation on July 19. The ACHD Commission will have a public hearing on the fate of the bridge on the evening of July 21. Anyone who wishes to provide input can wait until July 21 or send a letter or e-mail anytime before then.


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