UPDATE: ACHD at Crossroads 

"We've had a lot of meetings, a lot of public input on this, and we would be remiss if we punted on this."

An alternative to the current Broadway/Warm Springs traffic tangle could cost $4 million-plus.


An alternative to the current Broadway/Warm Springs traffic tangle could cost $4 million-plus.

UPDATE: June 24, 2106

Officials at St. Luke's Health System say they can now move forward with their plans for a $400 million expansion.

Hospital officials had to wait for the Ada County Highway District to agree to a permanent closure of a stretch of Jefferson Street in downtown Boise in order to grow the hospital campus footprint.

Following two nights of testimony, ACHD commissioners voted 4-1 June 23 to close Jefferson between First Street and Avenue B, expected to occur within the next two years. ACHD Commissioner Jim Hansen was the lone "no" vote.

ACHD said it worked on the expansion plans for nearly six years and, as recently as a year ago, the proposal was in jeopardy when city of Boise Planning and Zoning commissioners pushed back against the idea of shutting down one of downtown's major thoroughfares. 

What followed was a bizarre mix of
threats from St. Luke's that it would pull up stakes and move much of its operations to Meridian, followed by a charm offensive that ultimately won over city of Boise and ACHD elected leaders.

Throughout much of the past two years, residents of the East End Neighborhood Association told anyone who would listen that the closure of Jefferson wasn't necessary and would deprive residents of a popular connection to and from downtown.

Hansen agreed with those residents, voting against the proposal, but was outnumbered by fellow Commissioners Rebecca Arnold, Sara Baker, Kent Goldthorpe and Paul Woods.

St. Luke's first opened its doors in 1902 as a frontier hospital with six beds to care for settlers and miners struggling with scarlet fever, smallpox and typhoid. A four-story facility followed in the 1920s, then a "million-dollar wing" was added in 1952.

The hospital accepted its first Medicare patient in 1967, saw its first open-heart surgery in 1968 and a $10 million expansion in 1977. In 1999, St. Luke's opened Idaho's only Children's Hospital. 

The new master plan proposes a 357,000-square-foot medical tower; a combined central plant and parking garage; 100,000 square feet of additional medical office buildings; and a total floor-area expansion of approximately 567,000 square feet. Now, that plan also includes the two-block closure of Jefferson Street.

ORIGINAL STORY: June 22, 2016

As Ada County Highway District Commissioners promised that changes to the Broadway/Warm Springs intersection—where nearly 1,150 vehicles traverse each hour—they still wanted to get the ball rolling on redesigning what nearly everyone agrees is a mess.

"There's no rush for us to decide this right now. In fact, we shouldn't even pursue this, even in concept, until the Broadway Bridge is finished," ACHD Commissioner Jim Hansen said June 15, referring to the soon-to-finished rebuild of the span.

Hansen's fellow commissioners disagreed as they voted to proceed with design plans for the intersection, even though they conceded that nothing concrete would happen in the near future.

"We've had a lot of meetings, a lot of public input on this, and we would be remiss if we punted on this," said Commissioner Sara Baker.

Public input steered the the commission to its preferred design. After ACHD designers crafted options that included a raised median along Broadway, thus not allowing left-hand turns into local businesses, much of the public pushed back.

"We went back to the drawing board," said ACHD Senior Transportation Planner Rod Ashby. "That's why we came up with Alternative D, which gives us back a middle lane. We learned that there was some acceptance in taking some additional right-of-way in order to keep those turn lanes."

ACHD planners said the Broadway/Warm Springs redesign could cost more than $4 million.

"The price tag is huge," said Hansen, "and we're not talking about the largest elephant in the room, which we'll be taking up next."

He was referring to ACHD's next big vote, slated for Wednesday June 22, when commissioners hear arguments on whether a section of Jefferson Street should be permanently blocked to traffic for the much-debated $400 million expansion of St. Luke's Health System.

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