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After years of back-and-forth, 5th & 6th streets could finally go back… and forth

Two-way traffic could soon return to 5th St. and 6th St. in Downtown Boise for the first time in nearly 50 years.

It’s part of a long-gestating plan to change the pattern on the two streets from a set of one-way streets that work together as a couplet, to standalone two-way streets.

BoiseDev first reported on the project in 2017. The Capital City Development Corp. said at the time that the conversion work would happen in 2019, the latest in a series of conversions that included 3rd St. & 4th St., Jefferson St. and others.

But in 2019, the highway district quietly put the project off when it deprioritized the project in a so-called “commissioners retreat.”

The idea sat dormant for several years. Last fall, during a joint meeting of ACHD and the Boise City Council, the project appeared to be again moving forward. Representatives for CCDC, ACHD and the city seemed to agree, and noted that CCDC would lead the effort.

But just a few days later, ACHD’s executive director gave a 13-minute presentation on what he called “the facts” of the situation, and said a number of parties had reached out with concern – including the Idaho Transportation Department.

He told the commission ITD did not support the conversion of the two ACHD streets to two-way traffic. ITD controls Front St. and Myrtle St. as part of the state’s highway system, which both intersect with 5th and 6th. An ITD board member appeared at the ACHD meeting and said her agency didn’t support the project.

Ready to move forward?

Now, CCDC and ACHD appear to be ready – again – to move forward.

“We’ve continued to meet with ACHD, and we have an agreement with them from a cost share with them,” City of Boise Director of Government Affairs Kathy Griesmyer said at a CCDC meeting last week. She said the city has met with business owners, Gov. Brad Little’s staff and others. She said the city has also met with legislative leadership and the Idaho State Department of Administration on the change. The state controls large parcels of land near 5th and 6th, including the Statehouse, parking lots and other facilities.

“We’ve had meetings with ITD who is still requesting a number of pieces of information to shore up their position on the project,” she said.

An ACHD spokesperson confirmed that the agencies are back in alignment.

“Things are progressing,” ACHD spokesperson Rachel Bjornestad said. “The ACHD Commission approved the interagency agreement related to the design on November 9th, and we are moving forward with a process that addresses the concerns that have been raised.”

CCDC, ACHD to split cost

CCDC slide shows plan for 5th & 6th conversion. Via CCDC

The conversion project would cost $6.5 million, with $2.1 million from CCDC and $4.4 million from ACHD.

“It’s no secret that downtown is (often) under construction, and we have special events that close streets,” CCDC Project Manager Zach Piepmeyer said. “Having two-way streets benefit emergency vehicles in those situations. The goal with these types of conversions is to calm overall traffic. It has an overall economic benefit, and provides all-day exposure to all-day businesses.”

The project would not convert 5th St. for two blocks from Washington St. to Fort St. right away due to complications with a five-legged intersection where Fort, 5th and Hays Streets all come together near the Boise Veterans Administration campus. That change could happen in a future project.

“I want to thank the team at ACHD, our City of Boise team and the partners at ITD and other agencies that have worked through this,” Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said. “Businesses up and down 5th and 6th street have asked for resolution on this. It caught up in politics back in the day, but really appreciate that everyone came back to the table and the level of professionalism that staff at every agency has shown.”

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Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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