TWIN FALLS, Idaho — If you're looking for the impacts that growth is having on Twin Falls, you don't have to look much further than Blue Lakes Boulevard, which is absolutely packed during the rush hours. So, what can city leaders do about all that traffic? According to Twin Falls Mayor Ruth Pierce, not as much as you might think, considering Blue Lakes, along with Addison, Pole Line, Kimberly and other roads are state highways.
"We don't have control over our state highways, which we have several running through Twin Falls,” said Mayor Pierce. “The Perrine Bridge is not ours. We don't have control over building a third bridge, which we need very bad. And so, I think, given what we've got, the funds we have available, we've done a fairly decent job of managing our traffic issues."
Another critical issue the growth is creating for the people of Twin Falls, is the same issue many Idahoans are facing - a housing shortage. Specifically, an affordable housing shortage. According to the Intermountain MLS, despite prices leveling off, the median cost for a house in Twin Falls is still more than $366,000.
The mayor said, "It's free enterprise. So, you can't control rents. You can't control housing prices. We couldn't control the big spike that happened." But the city can control what it does with its federal COVID funds. The mayor said it's putting more than a million of that into building an almost 80-unit affordable housing complex.
Pierce said that's the main idea on what they can do to make housing more affordable, "Well, I think more of it, you know, increasing the inventory. One of the things that I think the city can do to help that is make the planning and the building process of that going through our planning and zoning and our building department as smooth as possible, so that we can up that inventory."
The final big concern with growth, is the crime it could bring. According to Idaho State Police, crime is up in Twin Falls County. But the mayor stated that she believes it is less about people committing crimes at a higher rate, and more so about officers arresting criminals at a higher rate, especially drug traffickers coming across the state line.
She also said that inside the city limits, crime is trending down, "I actually looked at the last three years and our crime went slightly up in 2020. And then down, down, down. We're down in 2022. We're scheduled to be down in 2023."
How is education doing in Twin Falls? The mayor said that the College of Southern Idaho is an incredible partner with the city and employers in the area. She said the K-12 schools are doing great too, but there are challenges to keeping them funded.
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