Boise City Council is asking the Ada County Road District to drop plans to widen Warm Springs Avenue to five lanes through Harris Ranch.
The mile-long section of Warm Springs, which runs southeast from Parkcenter Boulevard to Eckert Road, now has two lanes.
The widening project is included in the Master Street Map of the road district, which shows the existing and planned arteries and collector streets. The map, which is updated every two years, assists the district in long-term planning to secure land for road projects before they are needed.
The Barber Valley Neighborhood Association has expressed concern that having two lanes of traffic in each direction and a two-lane roundabout, in an area where a number of housing developments are planned, would result in danger pedestrians and cyclists.
“Our concern was that if we surround these developments with this Parkcenter Boulevard-like promenade that crosses East Boise, it is just not a comfortable pedestrian or cycling crossing,” said by phone John Mooney Jr., president of the neighborhood association. “The right thing to do here is to put this road on a diet.”
Road widening in the Harris Ranch plan since 2007
The five-lane highway was included in Harris Ranch’s zoning ordinance when it was initially approved in 2007, ACHD spokeswoman Natalie Shaver said in an email. The plan was added to the Master Street Map in 2009.
“All of the traffic impact studies submitted for Harris Ranch have shown the need for a future five-lane road on Warm Springs and two-lane roundabouts,” she said.
City and highway district planners recently met to discuss the requirements needed to amend the Harris Ranch Zoning Ordinance and Master Street Map to change this section of Warm Springs to three lanes and one roundabout.
Originally, ACHD had sought to have a five-lane highway through Barber Valley east to Idaho 21. Mooney said the association was successful four years ago in having the 2.7 section. Warm Springs South Eckert Road in Idaho 21 miles downgraded to two lanes and one lane turn in the middle.
“ACHD retains the sway, but their plans are not to build five lanes,” Mooney said. “We are trying to do the same in Eckert.”
Neighbors predominantly prefer two lanes plus a center turn lane
Most residents in the neighborhood prefer three lanes over five, although a few like the idea of being able to get to downtown Boise more easily with more lanes, Mooney said. The third lane would be a center turn lane.
The case was taken to city council on June 30. as part of a presentation on ACHD Master Street Update. CDHA is asking cities to comment on plans within their jurisdictions.
City and highway district staff have identified, reviewed and resolved more than two dozen changes across the city, Karen Gallagher, the city’s deputy transportation planner, told council. But they have not resolved the planned expansion of Warm Springs.
This section of Warm Springs was added to a cycling network planned many years ago via Harris Ranch, Gallagher said. Having five lanes would make it difficult for people, especially children, to cross the road, she said.
A new Boise elementary school planned just north of Warm Springs would increase the number of children crossing the street. The school, bordered by South Barnside Avenue, East Walnut Creek Drive, South Shadywood Avenue, and East Thornapple Drive, was scheduled to open in fall 2022, but the Boise School District has delayed opening to fall 2024 more early this year.
“Keeping that three-lane would really reduce the barrier it would create to five-lane,” Gallagher said. “In addition, we have (planned) restaurants and other residential and non-residential uses that would benefit from a narrower street section.”
The board unanimously approved the recommendation.
The traffic study recommends five lanes, roundabouts
“For now, the Master Street Map that we are updating will continue to call five lanes, but it also explicitly states that there are currently no plans to build the five lane section for which we already have the ‘grip,’ Shaver said.
A 2016 traffic study for ACHD by Fehr & Peers, a Washington, DC company with offices in Portland and Salt Lake City, predicted that at full construction in 2035, Warm Springs would generate 2,120 peak daily trips. in the morning and 2,747 peak trips in the afternoon.
A September 2019 traffic count in Warm Springs, west of Eckert Road, had an early morning peak of 347 westbound vehicles and an eastbound afternoon peak of 355 vehicles. The number of 24 hours in both directions was 7,536.
Fehr & Peers recommended widening Warm Springs to two lanes in each direction plus a central turning lane by 2035 and adding three one-lane roundabouts, which it said would keep traffic volumes at acceptable levels.
The road district plans to hold a working session on revisions to the master street map on September 2, with the updated map to be adopted on September 23.