Boise Officials Talk Options For Making Front, Myrtle Streets Friendlier to Pedestrians 

click to enlarge - City planners have been talking with relevant agencies to make Front and Myrtle streets more pedestrian friendly. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • City planners have been talking with relevant agencies to make Front and Myrtle streets more pedestrian friendly.
Amid a spate of downtown development and ambitious plans, city leaders have turned their gazes to BoDo and the Central Addition—what they call the LIV District—only to find a veritable island between the Boise Greenbelt and downtown. Now, a conversation is springing up between an alphabet soup of local, state and federal planners about how to make the up-and-coming area more accessible.

"Our hope was, there are things we could do with the corridor that better suit the land uses that have cropped up around it," said Daren Fluke, the comprehensive planning manager for the City of Boise.

Fluke and Capital City Development Corporation project manager Matt Edmond delivered a presentation to stakeholders in the Boise City Council Chambers on June 28, discussing a few options that might connect people to the homes and businesses between Front and Myrtle streets. In the room were an engineer from the Idaho Transportation Department, which has jurisdiction over the busy streets; representatives from affected businesses and other planners.

Front and Myrtle streets compose a section of Highway 26, which itself is part of a highway that runs from Nebraska to the Pacific Coast. They're two of the busiest streets in the state, and their presence has been felt politically, economically and culturally in the City of Trees. Fluke said though their peak rush-hour traffic can be intense, for most of the day, there is excess capacity on stretches of both roads, affording an opportunity.

"We've got a whole roadway that's just serving part of the day," he said.

In recent years, the Central Addition and BoDo areas have grown up rather than out, with 600 new hotel rooms, 900 Simplot employees in the JUMP complex, 200 residents living in the Fowler and 1,000 additional parking spaces. Bringing those neighborhoods into closer union with the rest of downtown may be an important element in securing their safety and economic health.

The items on the menu, the event organizers stressed, were tailored to have a mitigated impact on the streets' core purpose of moving cars in and out of downtown, while maximizing the safety and accessibility of non-car road users like pedestrians and cyclists. The purpose of the meeting was to gauge the "appetite for change along the corridor," Fluke said. This included re-timing traffic signals, increasing the number of signalized pedestrian crossings and "right-sizing" roadways—repurposing lanes of traffic in some stretches for wider sidewalks and landscaping.

Additional studies and planning with ITD are needed before any or all of those projects are undertaken, but some light touches have already been installed, like extended sidewalks on 20 street corners, conduits and close driveway cuts. Edmonds and Fluke said they won't recommend adding bike lanes to the streets, or above- or below-ground pedestrian crossings.
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