MERIDIAN — Widening Chinden Boulevard west of Boise is going to be like “ripping off a Band-Aid,” Jake Melder, Idaho Transportation Department spokesman, said.
ITD plans to start and complete road construction on almost all of Chinden Boulevard from Eagle Road to Highway 16 in 2020, leaving a 1-mile gap from Meridian Road to Locust Grove Road to be completed in 2021.
The construction will widen the highway from two to four lanes — adding a sidewalk on the south side. During construction, the affected road segments will be reduced to one lane.
The entire project is estimated to cost $40.75 million. The state will pay $12 million upfront, and the rest will be paid for by developers, who will be reimbursed over time, Melder said.
Originally, ITD had planned to widen Chinden one section at a time year after year, moving the bottleneck from four lanes to two farther west, Melder said. Then Costco Wholesale agreed to initially pay for the widening of Chinden from Highway 16 to Linder Road after Meridian City Council approved the development in April.
Developers of both projects will be reimbursed through sales tax revenue generated by the developments — referred to as a Sales Tax Anticipation Revenue, or STAR, agreement, Melder said.
The Meridian Road to Locust Grove Road improvements are a year behind, in 2021, so the developer will have cash flow from the project to put into road construction, Melder said.
The year gap will create a bottleneck, requiring drivers to merge for the mile between Meridian Road and Locust Grove.
Meridian City Councilwoman Genesis Milam, at the March 12 council meeting, said driving through that bottleneck “just looks like it will be hell in both directions.”
During the meeting, Melder admitted doing it this way “does create a headache,” but the state wants to act quickly with the private-public partnership funding as it becomes available.
In 2017, there were 25,500 daily trips on Chinden Boulevard just west of Eagle Road and 16,500 trips just west of Black Cat Road, according to ITD.
The department anticipates 71,800 daily trips on Chinden Boulevard just west of Eagle Road and 84,900 daily trips just west of Black Cat Road by 2040 if the department finishes building out the road — including widening it to six lanes and constructing high-capacity intersections at Middleton, Star, Linder, Meridian, Locust Grove and Eagle roads.
Construction will be kept to the south side of the road. Melder said during construction, ITD will keep entrances to businesses on the south side of Chinden Boulevard open when road work isn’t blocking them.
Doug Dorendorf, manager of the Staples on Chinden Boulevard and Eagle Road, said he doesn’t think the store will be more than “a little bit” impacted by the construction.
“It will be good when (the construction) is finished,” he said.