Ever wonder why there is an Ada County Highway District?
Fed up with bad roads they spent too much to maintain, voters overwhelmingly
approved a new agency to oversee all of Ada County’s local roads. The move
was approved at the polls in May 1971 and took legal effect in January of
the following year when ACHD began to operate.
A 14-minute video, “If
These Roads Could Talk,” explores the reasons and politics behind the
creation of ACHD 45 years ago.
The piece features interviews with local architect Charles Hummel and former
Boise Mayor and City Councilman Dick Eardley. Local historian Susan Stacy
also provides perspective, and the video includes a number of vintage photos
of the county’s past road problems.
A special election occurred in 1971 after the Idaho Legislature approved a
bill allowing voters in a county of 75,000 or more residents to decide if
they wanted to move all city and county road functions under a new agency.
At the time, roads that were potholed, cracking and generally falling apart
in the cities and an inequity in road funding provided the motivation for
City residents, who struggled with bad roads, paid property taxes to their
city and to Ada County, which was not obliged to spend road funds inside
city limits. The result: Wonderful rural roads with little traffic and
pavement turning back into gravel inside many cities.
“We were going nowhere with regard to street planning and improvements,”
said Hummel, a founder of Idaho Smart Growth, a planning advocacy group.
“Putting the entire county and all its towns into one street and highway
district was the solution – and still
“You don’t hear about potholes very much anymore,” said Hummel, who also
served on Boise's Planning & Zoning Commission. “I’m very pleased with the
way the district is being operated now.”
As a City Councilman, Eardley strongly opposed the creation of ACHD, despite
the admittedly sad shape of the local infrastructure.
“Every city had its own street department and the county had its own highway
department,” Eardley said. “The biggest change that I think anybody
saw in the next few years was the improvement of the roads. Because the
highway district was able to coordinate everything better, there was more
money in the pot . . . and this way it was able to do a major job of
bringing the roads up to standards in Boise, as well as keeping the county
Eardley said that he’s happy with the way things have played out over the
last four decades.
“It’s one of the, maybe the first time and only time, that I was adamantly
opposed to something as a member of the City Council and few years later,
decided I was completely wrong,” Eardley said. “And I’m happy to admit it
Click this link to watch the
"If These Roads Could Talk."