A busy section of a Meridian thoroughfare is still one lane in each direction nearly a year after the Idaho Department of Transportation widened the rest of the road.
In 2021, ITD finished widening two miles of Chinden Boulevard between Linder Road and Locust Grove Road to make way for more traffic. But, due to negotiations with one of the property owners in the area, the two-mile section of Chinden between Meridian Road and Locust Grove sat untouched.
This three-quarters of a mile stretch of Chinden is the only portion of the east-west thoroughfare with only one lane in each direction between Highway 16 to the west and Eagle Road to the east. The other portions of the widened road opened at the end of 2020.
What’s the status of the project?
This project to widen Chinden is not a traditional ITD project where the agency pays for and oversees the project itself.
Instead, this stretch of road widening is being paid for with a public-private partnership between ITD and the nearby Orchard Park shopping center developer. This program, called sales tax anticipated revenue (STAR) allows roads to be widened by the developer upfront, who is then reimbursed from the development’s sales tax revenue.
Because this is a STAR project, the developer is responsible for bidding out the project and completing it. Unlike the first section of widening Chinden completed in partnership with Winco, there is no timeline imposed on Orchard Park’s developer High Desert Development on when the project needs to be completed.
Tony Tseng, a spokesperson for Orchard Park, didn’t give a detailed timeline on when construction would start or when the road is expected to be widened.
“We are currently going through the bidding process, and hoping to start work soon!,” he wrote.
Right of way negotiations resolved
The reason the entire stretch of Chinden wasn’t widened at once last year was negotiations over right of way.
When the government widens roads, agencies often have to get permission to access more land along the sides of the road to expand the roadway into and build sidewalks and other infrastructure. This process is called gaining access to the right of way. Because it often involves negotiating with multiple private property owners to either purchase land or gain access to it, negotiations can be lengthy and contentious.
There are several property owners alongside this stretch of Chinden, including Holy Apostles Catholic Church, Friendship Celebration Lutheran Church, and Zamzows. It is unknown which property owner, or property owners, held up the negotiations and pushed this two-mile stretch of widening into 2022. Last year, ITD would not reveal the property owners’ names in negotiations, and Idaho public records law shields real estate negotiations from public view.
Jillian Garrigues told BoiseDev ITD has all of the right of way necessary for the widening and the project can now begin.