Ada County Highway District

ACHD's Road Wizard Sunday, April 17, 2016 ACHD's Road Wizard

Who owns the ground between the sidewalk and the street? Request for a left-and-straight-thru lane on Lake Forest Drive at Federal Way

The Road Wizard Replies

Dear Road Wizard: In Ada County when there is land between the sidewalk and the street (e.g. planting strip, beside-walk, sidewalk buffer) who owns it, the homeowner or ACHD? Can you also tell me where I can find the answer in writing as I haven't been able to through my searches?

Road Wizard:

Generally, in Ada County, planting strips between the sidewalk and road on public streets not in the state highway system are in ACHD's "right-of-way." The right-of-way is the land over which a road and sidewalk is built.

However, Idaho law doesn't authorize countywide highway districts (ACHD is the only one in Idaho) to be responsible for the maintenance of planting strips. The list of included ACHD responsibilities is found in Idaho Code 40-1415.

The same section of code says a city can spend money on the placement and care of trees, grass, etc., within the right-of-way on highway district roads in city limits. Examples include Federal Way in Southeast Boise and along Capitol Boulevard.

In a subdivision with planting strips, the Homeowner's Association (HOA) will often enter an agreement with ACHD to have the association handle the maintenance. The group may also put the responsibility into the hands of property owners (hands which hopefully include green thumbs). That should be outlined in the association's rules.

There are also instances where the sidewalk buffer in subdivisions is private property and not in ACHD's right-of-way. Subdivision plat documents show when that is the case.

In areas that have planting strips in the public right-of-way, but aren't part of an HOA or subdivision, the individual homeowner is responsible for them as part of keeping up their property. This happens to be the case along Harrison Boulevard and much of the North End in Boise.

Dear Road Wizard: When traveling south on Lake Forest Drive approaching the intersection of that street and Federal Way, drivers have a choice of three lanes marked by overhead arrow signs. The left lane is left-turn only, the center lane is straight only, and the right lane is right-turn only. The center lane looks like it might dead end into a commercial business area. Why isn't that straight-only lane designated as both a straight and left turn into the right-most southbound Federal Way lane? It would improve traffic flow from the Simplot Sports Complex, especially on soccer Saturday!

Road Wizard:

A combo straight-or-left-turn lane would nicely guide freeway-bound drivers to the proper turn from Federal Way onto Gowen Road just a short distance away.

But Lake Forest and the commercial road across the street get left-turn green arrow signals onto Federal Way at the same time. That is why left turns from the straight-only lane on Lake Forest aren't allowed. Limited intersection space means left-turning vehicle paths would overlap, potentially causing collisions.

One option is to give Lake Forest a green arrow first, then allow the commercial road to turn. But the "left turns taking turns" method is usually avoided since it causes travel delays. However, this location could be an exception since the commercial side doesn't have much traffic.

ACHD is also considering lengthening the green light time for drivers using the existing left-turn lane from Lake Forest onto Federal Way on soccer Saturdays.

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