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Thursday, March 06, 2014
ACHD considers removal of vehicle traffic lanes for bike lanes on Capitol, Main and Idaho streets -- and two-way flow for 5th and 6th

Planners want to know what the public thinks about converting vehicle lanes into bicycle lanes on three key streets, which could make Boise’s urban core more inviting to riders and promote the City’s goals for the downtown.

An open house on Thursday, March 13, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. will provide an opportunity for the public to see and weigh in on the proposal to exchange one vehicle lane with a bike lane on Capitol Boulevard, and Main and Idaho streets. The meeting will be in the US Bank Building, 101 S. Capitol Blvd.

Taking vehicle lanes off of downtown streets may seem odd, but ACHD and Boise City planners believe demand exists for safer bicycling routes between downtown and Boise State University and from east-to-west across downtown – and that there will be enough leftover pavement for cars.

But motorists could notice more crowded commutes – particularly at rush hours.

"The idea is to make downtown Boise accessible for everyone," said Matt Edmond, ACHD senior transportation planner. "We have more capacity than we actually need on these roads, so if we can create comfortable bicycling routes, we can serve more users.

"This proposal responds to requests we’ve had from the public and from the City of Boise over the past year as we’ve looked at improving transportation downtown."

In place of one existing vehicle lane on Capitol, Main and Idaho, the streets would receive buffered bike lanes, ones separated from motorized traffic by a painted barrier with vertical markers, commonly called "candles."

The vehicle lanes on Capitol, Main and Idaho streets are under used with the existing automobile traffic, and the remaining lanes (two on Main and Idaho, two and three on Capitol Boulevard) can handle the rush hour volumes, according to ACHD’s analysis.

Four-lane Capitol Boulevard between the Boise River and Fulton Street serves some 19,986 vehicles daily, and 1,662 in the peak hour. The proposed, three-lane section of Capitol could handle more than 20,800 vehicles during the day and up to 2,100 at the peak.

Similarly, Main Street between 5th and 16th streets carries up to 11,003 vehicles a day and 772 in the peak hour, and Idaho Street carries up to 8,345 during the day and 1,014 in the peak. Two-lane versions of the roads should be able to comfortably handle that existing volume, said Edmond, the transportation planner.

Also at the open house, the public will be asked about converting 5th and 6th streets from one-way to two-way flow in the future.

The streets were studied last year as part of the original Downtown Boise Implementation Plan, but not included in the list of seven streets being converted from one- to two-way operation over the next few years. After a second look, planners now believe the streets can function well as two-way roads and would like to consider conversion in 2017, pending public support.

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