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Nampa looks to reroute busy highway out of downtown area

On a typical day, about 25,000 vehicles shuffle through Nampa’s Library Square block on state Highway 45.

Since Idaho 45 runs through Nampa’s downtown, freight trucks often get in the way of cars and pedestrians. The city of Nampa is now looking into potential ways to adjust the highway so it avoids downtown.

“The goal is how can we try to get truck traffic out of downtown, improve that regional access to I-84,” Nampa Deputy Public Works Director Jeff Barnes said, “instead of pushing everybody down through that constrained area on Library Square block. Part of the process right now is just gathering public input.”

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Nampa’s public works department will host an open house 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at the Nampa Civic Center to discuss the possible Idaho 45 realignment. Maps and diagrams explaining the situation will be available and attendees can ask questions and provide feedback. It’s still only the early phases of the project, though, since another public meeting is planned for February and the study could be completed around September 2022.

The study is important, Barnes said, because it entails looking at how Nampa was originally built compared to what is best for the future. Gathering input earlier on is easier compared to later.

“We want to improve freight capacity,” Barnes said. “We want to improve traffic flow through the city and then also protect pedestrians and just that downtown area from big trucks rolling through the downtown shopping areas.”

‘Not ideal’

Idaho 45 connects Owyhee County and southern Canyon County to Interstate 84, serving as a key route for agribusiness and freight.

The city has been considering a reroute since 2011, when the Nampa Development Corporation concluded Idaho 45 should skirt away from downtown. The route uses 12th Avenue South, 11th Avenue North and Garrity Boulevard, meaning trucks drive through the Library Square block. That limits economic opportunity and creates congestion and safety concerns, according to the study from 10 years ago.

But money never came through and the project stalled.

The Federal Highway Administration has been working with Nampa on its Planning and Environmental Linkages Assessment since May. The open house is the next step in that study. For anything to be implemented, though, it’s still several years and tens of millions of dollars away.

“This study is necessary because it will rule out certain alignments that aren’t feasible,” Barnes said. “We’ve looked at the alignments in the past but now this study is required if we’re going to pursue federal funding in the future. We need to nail down some of these other factors that would rule alignments out.”

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Nampa’s streets run at an angle, Barnes said, because it was originally designed based on the railroad. The rest of Nampa was set up north-south. That makes it challenging for people driving from the south side of Nampa to get to the interstate. Barnes called it “just not ideal.”

Trucks driving to and from Amalgamated Sugar and Simplot often have to drive through downtown. Business owners have voiced concerns that they want fewer trucks and a more walkable area.

“You have people shopping that downtown corridor and running through the heart of our downtown,” Barnes said, “which we want to make more vibrant, livable and attract people. And then these large trucks are having to drive through there.”

Several ideas on the table

Nampa is considering several ideas. One is shifting the highway to 16th Avenue. Another is leaving the route the same while improving and widening the roads.

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It’s early enough in the process that specific plans are far from being decided. Since the city is only just evaluating feasible options, it wants people to weigh in.

“It’s really important for the citizens to engage at these early levels,” Nampa spokeswoman Amy Bowman said, “because it’s so much easier earlier than later.”

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Paul Schwedelson - Idaho Press
Paul Schwedelson covers growth, Nampa and Caldwell. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

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