Bisterfeldt Leaves the Fence on Ustick 

But Idaho AG's Letter puts the hurt on city

The ongoing feud between City Hall and the Ada County Highway District regarding the Ustick Road widening project heated up yet again last week, prompting Council Member Vern Bisterfeldt to abandon his previously neutral position.

"My dog is now in the fight," Bisterfeldt stated during last week's council meeting. Bisterfeldt's remark was in response to a letter ACHD sent to the city rejecting an offer to seek mediation over the controversial project. The letter stated there was no "statutory authority" forcing ACHD to work it out with the city.

But the ACHD has a new friend: A June 1 opinion from the Idaho Attorney General's Office says any city actions are moot when compared to the ACHD's mandate to manage transportation.

Citing that opinion, the Ada County Highway District "sees no reason to participate in the proposed mediation process for the Boise City Comprehensive Plan Amendments," said the ACHD's letter, which was signed by John Franden, ACHD president.

Bisterfeldt joined other council members and the mayor in a unanimous front against ACHD's dismissal of mediation efforts.

ACHD wants to expand the road to five lanes to handle increased traffic, while the city and Ustick residents prefer to keep Ustick at three lanes.In a statement e-mailed to BW, ACHD general counsel Steven Price said the city was being willfully ignorant of state law, just to push people into buses.

"Mayor Bieter and the City Council continue to advocate a road design for Ustick Road that clearly encourages congestion," Price said. "Alternative forms of transportation to deal with traffic congestion are not ready to be implemented in Ada County."

The Ustick project has been controversial from the beginning, with accusations flying about ACHD's steamroller approach to concerns expressed by the city and neighbors. Three properties were condemned through eminent domain on July 3, and more will be in the works if other affected homeowners refuse to settle with the highway district.

"The people directly affected by this plan are Boise City constituents but also ACHD constituents and we believe this is not in their best interests," said Bieter in a prepared statement.

The widening process is slated to begin this winter.

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