ACHD Marks Four Decades of Service
Ada County's roads highly rated 45 years after voters shook things up

Ever wonder why there is an Ada County Highway District?

Potholes.

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 agoPickup struck in pothole. 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 Pothole with copchange. 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 stPothole challengeill is today.

“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 aChipsealingnybody 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 roads decent.”

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 today.”

Click this link to watch the "If These Roads Could Talk."