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Traffic light upgrades Nampa's top priority for $4.7M Amazon funding

The top priority will bring Nampa’s traffic signals into one network that can be monitored and controlled from a remote location.
Credit: Idaho Press
Motorists drive through a series of traffic lights in downtown Nampa.

NAMPA, Idaho — The first phase of a project to sync Nampa’s traffic lights to a new software is the city’s top priority for the $4.7 million coming from Amazon later this year, according to a report in the Idaho Press.

Nampa listed out four projects officials recommended to receive the funding in a letter to the Idaho Transportation Department. The Nampa City Council approved the letter Jan. 21.

ITD spokesman Jake Melder said ITD received the letter on Tuesday.

About a year ago, Amazon entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Nampa, in which it committed $4.7 million to pay ITD for road projects near the fulfillment center to mitigate Amazon’s traffic impacts. Amazon must pay the $4.7 million before receiving its certificate of occupancy, which is expected in September, according to the letter.

RELATED: Construction begins on Amazon distribution center in Nampa

Because the fulfillment center is within Nampa’s city limits, the money is considered an “in lieu payment” that will go to the city before being transferred to ITD, according to Nampa Public Works Director Tom Points. City officials drafted a letter to ITD recommending several projects that could use the funding to improve traffic in the area.

The top priority listed in the letter was the implementation of the first phase of the Intelligent Transportation System. The system will bring the cameras at Nampa’s traffic signals into one network that can be monitored and controlled from a remote location.

Phase one of this project is estimated to cost $2.5 million, according to the letter. Points said the first phase will sync the traffic signals near the Garrity Interchange, which already experiences high levels of congestion.

A traffic impact study done on Amazon’s potential impact estimated the fulfillment center would increase traffic by about 10% on Interstate 84’s westbound on-ramp, but it couldn’t be exact because of the high levels of congestion that already exist.

RELATED: How will Amazon change Idaho's roads?

“It is currently so overwhelmed by peak hour traffic that Amazon’s (traffic impact study) refused to quantify Amazon’s additional impact,” the letter said.

There are 10 traffic signals in the vicinity of the Garrity Interchange, and the letter said the fulfillment center will add two more. City officials argued in the letter that Nampa needs to improve traffic signal intelligence to help reduce congestion.

The second priority for the funding is adding turn lanes to East Franklin Road at the intersection with McDermott Road, which is next to the Amazon site, Points said. City officials anticipate higher traffic on East Franklin Road because of Amazon, which necessitate turn lanes. The letter estimated this project to cost $300,000.

Though Nampa recommended four projects, Points said the $4.7 million is not enough to fund all four. The payment would cover the first two recommendations, he said. Jeff Barnes, deputy public works director for transportation, said at the Jan. 21 council meeting that the following two recommendations are for planning efforts for other projects.

RELATED: Nampa aims to better sync traffic lights with new software

Nampa officials also recommended putting funding toward planning the Highway 16 extension at I-84. The project is currently unfunded, and officials have estimated it may not be finished for 20 years unless the state acquires additional funding.

Mayor Debbie Kling previously told the Idaho Press she plans to advocate for the Highway 16 extension to begin at I-84 rather than Highway 20/26, due to the impact it would have reducing traffic in Nampa. According to data from the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho referenced in the letter, an interchange at I-84 and Highway 16 with a connection to East Franklin Road would reduce traffic up to 46% on East Franklin Road.

The fourth recommendation was improvements to traffic flow along Garrity Boulevard near I-84 in what the city refers to as the “WinCo block.” The improvements include lane widening and updated signal timing.

Councilwoman Sandi Levi asked how much weight the city’s recommendations would have on ITD’s decision on how to use the funding. Points said he believes the city has a lot of weight in the decision, as Nampa officials have worked with ITD to determine what’s needed in the area.

“They appreciate the fact that we come up with these ideas that can be funded,” Points said at the meeting.

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