A long-studied idea to boost transit options along Boise’s State Street took another step this week. The Capital City Development Corporation, the city’s urban renewal agency, voted to adopt a contract to put together plans for public engagement and framework for what the corridor could look like.
It follows a long series of reports, studies and consideration of the State St. corridor. BoiseDev provided extensive, in-depth reports on the plan.
The crux: By implementing bus rapid transit from Downtown Boise to Eagle, leaders hope they can help move commuters. With State the only real east-west connection north of the Boise River, and limited ability to widen the road for more cars – leaders think frequent “premium” bus service can help dent the challenges of moving people.
CCDC would provide a funding mechanism for some of the improvements – using its tax increment financing model allowed for in state law. Agency project manager Matt Edmond said the next step hopes to weave together decades of work to begin to put together funding and a concrete plan.
Framework to move forward
“What this framework looks to do is to take all those things – see where there are holes are, and give the public another opportunity to say what things they think we need,” Edmond said. “We are interested in getting feedback from the neighborhood associations, property owners and developers.”
Edmond said the team will take in data and look at all sorts of ideas and concepts along State St., including bus shelters, pathways, sidewalk improvements and more. He said that the recent COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on transportation – both in cars and via public transit – will be part of the conversation moving forward.
“This district is really planned around enhanced transit service along this corridor,” he said. “If you’ve read anything about transit the last two months – transit has suffered mightily. We’ve been urbanizing for hundreds of years – we’ve been going to transit for scores of years – and we’ve gotten through pandemics before. The bottom line is if we continue to expect job growth downtown and development in the northwest – you can’t just widen State St to widen to keep up with it.”
Once the report from the consultant CCDC hired, MIG, comes in, both the CCDC Board of Commissioners and Boise City Council would weigh in and vote before the creation of a new district.
Mayor urges public engagement
CCDC’s board chair Dana Zuckerman reitrated that the latest step doesn’t create a new district – but instead allows it to study the possibility.
“We’re about to vote on a motion to further study a new State Street Urban Renewal District,” she said before a unanimous vote to approve the contract with MIG. “We have not yet concluded that one will happen, and if it does what it will look like. We are just embarking on that process.”
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, who also serves on the CCDC board, emphasized the need for public engagement.
“It is so important that the public understands there is a process that we are going through, and now is the point at which we will engage them, ask questions, and look at the boundary lines,” she said during a public meeting earlier this week. “It’s my hope in the public engagement process we do everything we can to ensure that the community has their opportunity to share thoughts ideas and concerns.”
McLean touched on the tax increment financing model’s impact on other taxing districts in the county.
“It’s also my hope we would reach out to stakeholders that will be financially impacted if we do opt to move ahead, to renew conversations with them in light of where we are in light of COVID with budgets and property taxes and all the different pieces,” she said.