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Boise planning changes to 8th Street

Proposed 8th Street changes at the Greenbelt and Main to Bannock to help improve mobility and accessibility.
Credit: Jake King/ Idaho Press
People walk and wait in line at bars and restaurants on the closed block of Eighth Street between Idaho and Bannock streets in downtown Boise.

BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

The city of Boise is making changes to parts of Eighth Street, both near the Greenbelt and in the section from Main to Bannock that is closed to vehicle traffic.

The moves are intended to improve mobility and accessibility.

“Such an opportunity to create a more distinctive space in the city,” Planning and Development Services Director Tim Keane said during Tuesday’s city council meeting, “with this intersection between our main spine through downtown, Eighth Street and the Greenbelt.”

In the area near the Greenbelt, the city wants to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists, distinguish between the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and the pathway and add lighting and cameras for security, according to Keane’s presentation. Another goal is to add accompanying streetscape improvements on Ninth Street.

The Capital City Development Corporation voted on Aug. 14 to allow up to $2.5 million in reimbursement for the project.

“As presently configured the Eighth Street pathway connection to the Boise River Bridge and the Greenbelt traverses the memorial in a way that really diminishes the experience of both the pathway and the memorial,” Keane said. “It creates unsafe conflicts between cyclists as passing through, and then visitors to the memorial to a somewhat lesser, but nonetheless important, degree.”

Keane said the project will “appropriately” adjust the route of the Greenbelt and Eighth Street connections to “create a stronger sense of place.”

The city will work on conceptual design until the end of the year. In the coming months, the city council will need to approve an agreement with the Capital City Development Corporation about the reimbursement.

But it’s not just that part of Eighth Street that will see changes. Tessa Greegor, Mobility and Public Spaces Manager, said there will be improvements to the part of Eighth Street that is closed to vehicles, part of “an important connection within the whole Eighth Street corridor.”

The street is one of the “best urban public spaces,” according to the presentation. The section was originally closed in 2020 to allow for socially distanced dining during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the city council gave the go-ahead to revamp the area and keep it closed to car traffic, BoiseDev reported at the time.

“We heard broad support for the car-free configuration of the corridor,” Greegor said. “We also heard that improvements are needed in order to provide an accessible and intuitive route that is easy to navigate, particularly for community members with disabilities.”

The project will remove the orange barriers at the intersections of Eighth and Main, Idaho and Bannock streets and improve intersections. Greegor said a goal of the project is to prevent conflicts among pedestrians, cyclists and e-scooters.

The first phase will include a reconstruction of the intersections at Eighth and Main and Eighth and Idaho and ensuring intersections meet requirements for “safe access and mobility for people with disabilities.”

The reconstruction at Eighth and Main will provide a more direct route for pedestrians, through the middle of the intersection instead of along the edges. At Eighth and Bannock, the city will install tactile warning strips to indicate not to cross.

Construction is planned for October and November, but the city needs to work with Ada County Highway District before confirming the final construction schedule.

“We do anticipate partial lane closures as well as pedestrian detours within each intersection,” Greegor said. “We’ll ensure that we are maintaining an accessible pedestrian route at each intersection.”

Mayor Lauren McLean expressed excitement about the project and said “this is a great update.”

“It’s really been incredible to see what opening these blocks for people has done for our downtown core, for an organic gathering place for the people of Boise, and then I’d say even businesses beyond the corridor,” McLean said. “People want to be downtown and this is a big part of it.”

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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