Boise State University overview campus photo

Boise State University

BOISE — Boise State University’s main thoroughfare will reduce in size in the coming years to make room for pedestrian and bike improvements.

University Drive, a five-lane arterial, will shrink down to a three-lane street between Lincoln Avenue and Chrisway Drive. This will include expanded bike and pedestrian facilities.

The Ada County Highway District approved the lane reduction Wednesday.

Currently, University Drive has two driving lanes in each direction as well as a center turn lane and unprotected bike lanes. The new design will feature one traffic lane in each direction, a center turn lane, widened sidewalks and protected bike lanes.

“It really started with the new residence hall,” said Randi McDermott, vice president of campus operations.

Sawtooth Hall, which houses roughly 600 students, was built in 2017. McDermott said a number of students voiced concern over crossing a five-lane road just to go to class.

“It’s scary, actually, to watch,” she said.

As part of the design and implementation, student groups will have an opportunity to guide the project.

“Already, just in brief conversations we have some great ideas,” McDermott said.

McDermott said few details are available because the university was waiting for approval from ACHD to move forward. It is unclear when work will begin on University Drive.

Boise State will pay for all design, modifications, improvements and landscaping along the corridor. McDermott said she does not have an estimated cost.

According to a presentation from ACHD staffer Christy Little, the need for more pedestrian facilities has hit an all-time high for Boise State with more students on campus, many of them living close enough to walk.

Boise State University has a student population of 25,540, with 16,955 of those attending full time.

She also noted that a traffic study of the area showed that between 90% to 95% of traffic using University Drive between Lincoln Avenue and Chrisway Drive has a campus destination, meaning most of the traffic is headed to campus anyway. This demonstrates less of a need for cars to get through quickly.

“While it’s classified as an arterial, it really doesn’t function as such,” she said.

The reduction of University Drive passed unanimously.

Commissioners Jim Hansen and Kent Goldthorpe commended McDermott and her staff for a thorough job planning the changes.

Commission President Rebecca Arnold voiced some concern that a project of this magnitude was not presented at a night meeting to allow the public ample opportunity to testify, but said she thinks it will be an overall positive change for the campus.

Xavier Ward covers Ada County for The Idaho Press. You can follow him on Twitter at @XavierAWard.

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