Downtown Boise's transit hub would go underground, if approved

Credit: Matt Standal / KTVB

The mixed-use regional transit hub planned for downtown Boise would find buses moved from the streets and located underground.

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by Matt Standal

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBMatt

KTVB.COM

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 5:26 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 9:49 AM

BOISE -- Downtown Boise is another step closer to a future transit hub, one that would include space for buses, bikes, even light rail.

That's because developers from the Utah-based Gardner Company gave preliminary details at ACHD headquarters Wednesday regarding the proposed underground hub.

Gardner CEO Tommy Ahlquist is the same developer putting the finishing touches on the 8th and Main Tower now rising above the Boise skyline. His company also recently purchased the adjacent U.S. Bank building.

Ahlquist says the U.S. Bank property includes an acre of surface parking that could be developed into a mixed-use facility, including an underground space to be used as the hub.

The parking lot he's referencing is a pay lot immediately to the north of the Boise Center on the Grove.

PRELIMINARY DESIGN

Ahlquist says the preliminary design calls for one level of parking about 20 feet beneath the lot. It would also include entry and exit ramps from Main Street, space for 8 buses, and escalators descending from street level. The space above the transit center would be developed into a new building Ahlquist says he's still scouting prospective tenants for.

Ahlquist's company was the sole respondent to a request for proposal advertised by Valley Regional Transit, which operates community busing in the valley and hoped to find a developer for the hub.

"I do believe that if the VRT regional transit hub is part of a larger redevelopment we do on this site, that it will transform the downtown, as 8th and Main has, as J.U.M.P. will," Ahlquist said, referencing several recent downtown developments.

"There's a lot of great things happening down here."

Commissioners at the Ada County Highway District heard Gardner's proposal for the first time on Wednesday. The move was an "unveiling" of sorts, according to Craig Quintana, Ada County Highway District spokesman.

Quintana says the upside to the development would be to ease congestion on city streets, provide a single location for bus boarding and unloading, and to pave the way for future development of transit systems.

"... It's going to require coordination between the Ada County Highway District, the City of Boise, and Valley Regional Transit," Quintana said.

WHAT COMES NEXT

The next step is to create a detailed proposal for Valley Regional Transit.

According to VRT Director Kelli Fairless, that plan should include the size of the new transit hub, how much vehicle traffic would pass through it, and how many people would use it. The plan would then allow VRT to complete an environmental impact statement for the project.

"We can evaluate traffic," Fairless said. "We can evaluate how the transit system would operate in the facility and around the facility. We'd look at air quality, and noise and all of those environmental areas."

Fairless says VRT has a budget of $11.5 million for the regional hub, of which most is federal tax dollars, while a smaller portion is from the Capital City Development Corporation.

But to get there, Gardner Company and Valley Regional Transit will have to degree on a final design and a price tag before the deal is sealed.

That means the timetable for downtown Boise's transit hub is flexible and dependent on the detailed proposal Gardner is set to complete.

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