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The future state of State St.: Plan would remake key Boise route in decades to come

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Leaders across the Treasure Valley have been grappling with the future of State St. as a key transportation corridor.  

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With the western part of the area booming, State provides a key link, bringing together Meridian, Eagle, Garden City and Boise.

But in many spots, the road finds itself choked with traffic at key times. It is also missing non-auto infrastructure like bike lanes and ADA-compliant sidewalks.

During a Boise City Council workshop, a representative for MIG Consultants talked about some of the work and ideas to date – and a view of what State could look like into the future is starting to emerge.

BoiseDev reported last year on the effort by the City of Boise and Capital City Development Corporation to create a new urban renewal district that spans the length of State from Downtown Boise to the city limits.

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One of the main ideas is to provide a high-frequency bus route. According to Alex Dupey with MIG, State already has one of the busiest routes in the ValleyRide system – with an average of 20 people boarding the bus each hour versus 12 for the rest of the system.

Buses would run every 15 minutes, and the route would feature a series of transit stations to link it all together. Four key ‘nodes’ would feature bus stations along the roadway, as well as development to match.

“The overarching goal of this project is to keep people moving,” Dupey said. “It’s not just cars but buses and bikes and pedestrians. But it’s really about people – moving people in the most efficient and safe way.”

Cars, yes – but not exclusively

As with many recent transit projects that involve the City of Boise and CCDC, the focus is not only on cars.

“The idea is that you don’t have to drive to get every place, but you can walk or bike,” Dupey said. “Driving is accessible but it’s not the only mode.”

A coalition of agencies started working on a plan to upgrade State St. in 2004. It includes the City of Boise, Ada County, Ada County Highway District, Capital City Development Corporation, City of Eagle, City of Garden City, Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho, Idaho Transportation Department, Valley Regional Transit and neighborhood associations.

“As you are all aware, we’ve been at the State Street project – since 2004. That’s the bad news. The good news is we are making significant progress,” Daren Fluke with the City of Boise said.

Now, a vision is starting to form. It would transform areas of State St. into a transit-oriented gateway. While the roadway will continue to be a key route for cars – planners envision more access for people on foot, and using transit.

The plan would require a number of moving parts – changes to zoning, changes to streetscapes, changes to policies and more.

The nodes

State St. nodes. Via COMPASS

The plan envisions four areas that feature bus stations – and a series of planning principles that would back it up.

The four nodes are centered where State St. meets:

  • 30th St.
  • Collister Dr.
  • Glenwood St.
  • Horseshoe Bend Rd.

Renderings show familiar areas of town with new looks – focused on pedestrians and bicycles. But the ideas aren’t mandates.

“This is not a top-down ‘you will do it this way’ study,” Fluke said. “This is to show people what is possible.”

Rendering of what the area of State & Collister could look like in the future. Via City of Boise

One concept – at State and Collister, would keep the existing Collister Shopping Center but revamp the surface parking area into mixed-use buildings of three and four stories. The model would orient the buildings toward the street.

“It’s all about streets and parking for how you interface with pedestrians,” Dupey said. “These nodes could also have a high degree of housing. You would want to put parking to the side or to the rear. You don’t want large parking surfaces in front of your businesses.”

The stations

Rendering of a possible transit stop. Via City of Boise

New bus stations would anchor the nodes. A platform with shelter, ticket machine and benches would sit on a platform placed against the street front.

“It allows for onboarding and offboarding a lot more quickly,” Fluke said. “It really does put the rapid in bus rapid transit.”

Currently, VRT buses must “kneel” down to let passengers on board – but a slightly elevated platform would eliminate that need, allowing buses to move more quickly.

The street cross-section

The street itself would see a major change if the plan is adopted and the agencies come to an agreement on how to implement it.

Right now, State Street largely features two lanes in each direction, with a larger center turn lane. Sidewalks are intermittent and bike lanes are generally not present.

Rendering of the possible State St. cross section.

The new model would keep the existing car travel lanes – two each way. The center turn lane would go away, to be replaced by a landscaped median. A mixed-use pedestrian and bicycle path would be placed at the very edge of the roadway – protected from traffic by landscaping or the bus stations.

The current model shows a high occupancy vehicle lane on each side of the road – primarily for buses. But city council member Elaine Clegg pointed out that HOV lanes aren’t legal in Idaho, and questioned why they are in the plan.

“I think we need to face this sooner versus later,” Clegg said. “We keep referring to the HOV lanes and they are unworkable and illegal and I don’t know why we keep working toward them.”

Fluke and Dupey said the HOV lanes could become so-called “BAT lanes” – or business access and transit lanes. These would be shared by buses, but also used by cars to turn into businesses along the corridor.

What’s next

The proposed CCDC urban renewal area continues to move forward, and could provide funding for some of the improvements.

Fluke said the current feasibility analysis of that new URA is ongoing. The State St. plan could be added to the city’s comprehensive plan – known as Blueprint Boise – by the end of the year.

The concepts and upgrades would happen in the years and decades to come as funding becomes available and the city redevelops.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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