BOISE, Idaho — With a fraction of our normal traffic right now on Treasure Valley streets and roads, the question has come up - Isn't this the perfect time for highway departments and the transportation department to put the gas pedal down on construction projects?
The Ada County Highway District has 364 projects and programs on the books for the next five years. They run from sidewalk replacement to large-scale intersection reconstruction and more. It is a near $900 million undertaking.
Due to the pandemic, chip sealing is currently on hold, as are some other non-essential projects. So we asked ACHD spokesperson Natalie Shaver where resources are being focused right now.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and the economy right now, Shaver says ACHD is taking a cautious approach, especially when it comes to the bigger, non-crucial projects.
"We just don't know what's going to happen with the five-year work plan - things that are happening two, three years down the road - but we are having those discussions," Shaver said.
According to Shaver, the highway district is planning to ask commissioners to push back a major project to widen State Street and overhaul the intersection of State and Pierce Park.
"We're looking at this [as] pushing one project back that is not a matter of safety," Shaver said. "It's easier for us to do that than to maybe stop seven or eight different community projects or sidewalk projects that need to get done, that do pose safety risks if neighborhoods don't have sidewalks or adequate bike lanes or things that are ADA accessible.
"So if we look at pushing back one big project that might help us with other projects next year because we don't know what's gonna happen with money in the economy and what kind of budget we're gonna have in the coming years," Shaver added. "So we're looking at [postponing] that one project right now, as for anything else, we just don't know."
As for whether the highway district is taking advantage of the lighter traffic on roads, Shaver said they are.
"We actually have been able to take advantage of having fewer cars on the road," she said. "As most people know, this is the time of year where our construction projects kick-off and you see a lot more roadwork. We had some projects that were scheduled for night work where our crews were able to work during the day safely because there are less cars on the road. You don't have to worry about maybe inconveniencing people working at night, with less cars on the road our crews are able to work longer hours to get projects done."
Shaver says they are not starting any new projects that weren't previously planned.
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