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Project to widen road up to Warm Springs Mesa delayed until 2023

A project to widen the winding road to the Warms Springs Mesa won’t break ground until next year. 

Earlier this summer, developer M3 Companies, and the Ada County Highway District made the call to move a costly project to widen Starview Drive to next year. The highway district and the developer say the delay came from a redesign of the project, which requires road construction on a hillside, the timing of the school year, and supply chain issues. 

This comes after Mesa residents came out in droves to two meetings over the last year and a half, pushing for M3 to comply with a 2018 development agreement requiring the company to widen and flatten the curves on Starview, as well as add a bike lane. M3 applied with ACHD for permission to scale back the road widening requirements in early 2021, but the ACHD Commissioners voted to keep the road widening in place

ACHD and the City of Boise will not sign off on the final plats and allow construction on the final 49 open lots on the Mesa until Starview is completed. 

A change in design

The direction from the ACHD Commission in April of last year was clear: If M3 wanted to build more homes on the Mesa, they would need to widen the road. 

After ACHD submitted its plans to widen the road, the developer’s engineer examined the design and proposed an alternative plan. ACHD Development Services Manager Christy Little told BoiseDev the new design requires less excavation of the steep hillside on Starview but will end up with the same result of a widened road bringing drivers up to the neighborhood. 

Little told BoiseDev the cost estimates compiled internally by ACHD show the cost for the project stayed roughly the same after the redesign. 

“Nobody ever told me ‘We’re planning this because it’s going to cost less’,” she said. “None of those conversations were ever had. It was the engineer saying ‘While what we have approved is good, this might be a little better design.'”

Mark Tate, principal for M3 Companies, told BoiseDev the same thing, except by his count, the price increased. The new design uses a series of soil nails into the hillside to support a retaining wall instead of the full road excavation to build a traditional retaining wall. 

“We can’t compare cost exactly apples to apples, but based on the contract amount, it would appear the cost has gone up,” Tate wrote to BoiseDev in an email. 

Supply chain stress and school calendar

ACHD’s engineers took roughly six months to review the new construction plans and finally gave it the green light in June. 

Part of ACHD’s requirements for M3’s improvements to Starview includes redoing the intersection with Warm Springs Avenue, which requires a total closure of the intersection. Little said, ACHD is requiring M3 to have that work completed before the school year begins, so Warm Springs is only closed when students aren’t commuting to school. 

Little said that as things were getting closer to the “drop dead” start date in order for the project to meet this deadline, the contractor told M3 they could not procure the soil nails needed to build the retaining wall. That’s when ACHD made the call to push the project back until 2023. 

“They wanted to deny the start date until July, and we just couldn’t,” she said. “It’s not a project where we could even risk that it wouldn’t be open by the first day of school. ACHD made the decision for them not to start construction this summer.”

Will the developer walk away?

M3 put up a surety bond on the project in 2020 when talks of them trying to alter the development agreement started swirling. 

This $2.5 million bond is part of standard procedure with ACHD and functions as a down payment to the agency on required road improvements so construction can continue before the improvements are made. If M3 were to not complete the project on time next year or his company defaults, ACHD would take the $2.5 million and complete the project on its own.

Records about the project obtained by BoiseDev show the cost estimate for the new project is only higher by roughly $300,000, which Little said means the surety bond has not been raised. But, she said the development agreement allows ACHD to increase the surety later if costs increase. The bond has been extended so the developer will not be defaulting even though the project is not done by the schedule originally laid out. 

“I’ve been here over 20 years and it’s only ever been one time that we’ve had to draw on a financial surety,” she said. “The developer hasn’t gained anything from this and if anything we’ve delayed them for a year.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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