On a warm fall evening near the Boise River Greenbelt, the Boise Bicycle Project held a forum for candidates for two open seats on the Ada County Highway District.
There are two seats up for election this year, incumbent Mary May faces challengers Miranda Gold and Payton Khan for seat three, while incumbent Kent Goldthorpe is up against Neil Durrant for seat four.
At the opening of the forum, the moderator of the forum indicated incumbent Mary May had told organizers she could not participate “two days ago.” However, no mention was made of Khan not participating. BoiseDev asked BBP Executive Director Jimmy Hallyburton by text Friday morning about why Khan did not participate and if she was invited. Hallyburton said BBP only had a single interaction with her.
“So we can’t quite tell if she’s actually running or not,” he wrote. “She does have paperwork filed, but no contact info. And as far as we can tell no social media or website.”
BoiseDev could not locate Khan, who requested on a declaration of candidacy form to be listed as “Regina ‘Queen’ Payton.” We left a note at the address listed on her paperwork requesting an interview.
On the stage, a single extra seat was left open next to the three participating candidates.
Organizers asked each of the three participating candidates a set of the same questions at the Boise State Centennial Amphitheater, with a crowd of a couple of dozen watching.
Gold said her prior experience as a member of the Eagle City Council would give her insight into the interplay between the unique highway agency and local governments.
“Land use and roads are linked,” she said. “It’s important we align closely on our strategies and coordinate with our partners on growth. Decisions we make now will impact our community for a really long time, and I think we have a great opportunity to make some positive steps for our long-term livability.”
Gold said she wants to take an approach that looks at all different types of transit.
“I think ACHD has a really great opportunity for all sorts of priorities that align with my goals, including multi-modal transportation and infrastructure to support all modes for all users and abilities,” she said.
Goldthorpe emphasized the work he has done over two terms on the commission, and says the panel has made strides over eight years.
“I believe when you bring your concerns to ACHD and discuss them in a civil manner, you are always impressed with what happens,” he said. “That wasn’t always the case.”
Goldthorpe spoke with emotion about the agency and its role.
“I actually worry about the impacts of what I do,” he said with a brief break in his voice. “I felt that during our budget season I felt we were really screwing up by letting children, bicyclists, and others die at the rate they were. I decided we weren’t going to have a budget until we had a few million dollars to fill the sidewalk gaps from developments in the 60s.”
Goldthorpe is pointing to a program called Safe Routes to School, which has revamped infrastructure near school buildings in recent years.
Durrant, who lives and works on a 1,400-acre farm in Kuna, said he thinks growth is challenging the road network.
“I see transportation as one of the most necessary things we need in our lives,” he said. “I see it as transporting goods from one side of the state to the other. The reason I’m running for ACHD is because I see gaps. I see where our roads aren’t where they need to be. Growth is coming, but our roads haven’t been able to keep up. Safety should be our number one priority.
Durrant said he wants to weave increased planning into the road construction process.
“It makes no sense to go redo a road tomorrow and go do it again in five years,” he said. “We have to visualize what we want the future to look like and make those priories happen and make sure they are safe and sound transportation needs.”
Bikes and bike lanes
The forum moderator asked candidates if they support BBP’s goal to make Boise the “bicycling capital of America.”
Durrant, whose district doesn’t primarily include Boise, but more of Meridian and Kuna, noted the difference between rural parts of the county and the more urban center of Boise.
“My district is very unique, we are south of the freeway,” he said. “You have some subdivisions and areas that bike lanes do make sense. But we have some areas that are really rural, and you have to look at where you need bike lanes and where they make sense. You have rural areas where you go a mile without seeing another house, and do you need to have bike lanes there?”
Goldthorpe, in the same district as Durrant, noted that BBP’s goal mostly focused on Boise, but sees opportunity elsewhere.
“Out in the county, we had very little options, you drive out there or drive out there you see nothing but fog lanes, which is a shame,” he said. “A couple of (legislative) sessions ago, we ran a bill to have very wide multi-modal pathways where that wasn’t even legal before. Now you see them, and people go, ‘oh my gosh, my kids can ride all the way from the county into the city, safely.’”
Gold, whose district consists of a blend of rural NW Ada Co., Eagle, Garden City and parts of downtown Boise and the North End said she wants to see better connectivity for bikes.
“I think there’s lot of (push) to advocate for better bike connectivity as those come up and make sure it’s a better part of a bike network,” she said. ” I want to be a strong advocate for multi-modal goals as our community moves through this time of rapid growth. I have the unique experience of having served on a land use agency.”
Candidates in agreement
The candidates all gave similar answers in support of concepts like lowering speed limits in neighborhoods, adding options for mass transit, and increasing road safety.
They also each expressed support for local option taxing authority for transit, but acknowledged power lies with the legislature and expressed doubt the state would grant local areas that authority.