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Viewpoint: Meridian's challenges and opportunities

Meridian Mayor discusses growth, downtown transformation, public safety, transportation, parks and more

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Meridian is Idaho's second largest city behind Boise. Meridian has consistently appeared on lists of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and that growth continues today.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people living in Meridian jumped from 9,596 in 1990 to 34,919 in 2000, an increase of 264%. Over the next ten years the population more than doubled to 75,092 in 2010. In 2020 the population rose to 117,635, a bounce of 57% over the decade. The most recent numbers the Census Bureau has are for 2021 when the population of Meridian was 125,963. Just for fun, we looked back a century to 1920. The population then was an even 1,000.

Rapid growth brings challenges and opportunities. City leaders are working to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. Downtown Meridian is undergoing a transformation under a plan the city calls Destination Downtown. New buildings have gone up with a combination of retail and residential space, and others are going up.

The city is also focusing on public safety with the addition of two fire stations and a police precinct, school safety, attracting and keeping businesses, and the constant challenge of transportation and roads, among other things.

Meridian Mayor Robert Simison said transportation is the city's biggest challenge.

Transcript from the interview:

"That's what our residents have said in our city survey every time we've asked them, and so I think it still is their biggest challenge, and so that is what we are focusing on," Simison said.

Doug Petcash: The city doesn't really have control over road projects, though. That's Ada County Highway District and Idaho Transportation Department. So what can you do and what do you do to try to push transportation projects?

Mayor Simison: I mean the things that we can do is we can put our political influence on those agencies and try to get them to take action, and we do that quite often. But we can also put money into it. So the Linder Road Overpass is our number one priority as a city. So the city has put up $2.5 million to work with ACHD and ITD, and we are helping get the design done now so when the money comes available we can build that project as soon as we can.

Mayor Simison explained why Meridian's greatest opportunity is its location, location, location in the valley.

He also discussed managing growth, adding city parks, and changes to how city council members will be elected this year. The city is switching to a district system for council representation.

Viewpoint airs Sunday mornings at 9 o'clock on KTVB Idaho's NewsChannel 7.

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