When the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) performed their US 20/26 Corridor Study in the City of Meridian, they identified multiple needed improvements, including widening Chinden Boulevard from two lanes to five (future seven lanes), providing additional turning lanes at arterial intersections, installing two new traffic signals and modifying three others, enhancing pedestrian and bicycling facilities, and procuring the ultimate southerly right-of-way. These improvements added up to a tall bill for which funding was not immediately available.
Enter Costco Wholesale who, along with adjacent developers including Brighton Corporation, identified a site at the southwest corner of Chinden Boulevard and Ten Mile Road to construct a new retail space and led the project through the development process with the City, Ada County Highway District (ACHD), and ITD. Suddenly, Costco and ITD had a shared interest to implement the improvements identified by ITD’s corridor study, as several of them would need to happen to support Costco’s development. With Costco’s ability to provide the necessary funding for improvements, Costco Wholesale and ITD entered a Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue (STAR) Program Agreement.
The STAR program is a funding mechanism in which a developer fronts funding for public infrastructure improvements identified in preexisting planning documents, then is reimbursed through sales tax deferrals. By Costco Wholesale partnering with ITD and ACHD, via a STAR agreement, construction to improve safety and mobility along US 20/26 could come to fruition.
Garnering Community Support
With funding secured, the work of garnering community support and designing improvements was ready to begin.
Much of Kittelson’s role with the project involved daily cooperation and coordination between traffic agencies, private businesses, and the area’s residents. Public engagement, led by ITD and the Langdon Group, with support from Kittelson, kicked off almost immediately by way of community meetings, taking the time to listen to residents voice their concerns. Residents were initially hesitant, fearing heavy traffic in an already congested area. However, after coming to an understanding about how widening Chinden Boulevard would actually help reduce traffic congestion, community support began to shift.
“Yes, we’re adding more traffic,” said Lauren Nuxoll, “but there’s more capacity that we’re adding to ease congestion. Being able to demonstrate the plan and hear out concerns were key aspects to changing things around.”
From 5% Design to Completed Construction in Two Years
Another unique aspect of this project was the accelerated design and delivery that trimmed several years off the timeline, achieved through thinking outside the box.
Typically, design work is a serial process, fully completing one step before advancing to the next. This time, however, the project team tried a different route and worked to prepare right-of-way plans and preliminary design in parallel. They started negotiating with property owners at the 30% design stage and had half of the ROW acquired within eight months while simultaneously advancing the design. This took a high level of trust from all involved parties, but the team delivered.
Because of the partnership and communication between private and public sectors, and the commitment of the project team, the improvements to Chinden Boulevard sped from design to completion in just two years. Usually, projects with similar size and scope could take years just to be funded before any design work even begins. How was such a large improvement plan implemented in such a short time frame?
"It took good, old-fashioned hard work," said Project Manager Evan Reed. "The reason this project was a success was because of the dedication the team had. It's a big risk to have a small crew on one project but that's what it took, and it paid off."
We’re proud of this Boise-based project team and the reminder that sometimes innovation means looking beyond the typical process. The several miles of increased capacity will provide for future development and growth for the area and Chinden Boulevard is now a transportation facility that supports local economic vitality, promotes active transportation, and provides environmental protections to the area.
This project was named 2020 Project of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Southern Idaho Section. For more information, please reach out to Darcy Sulz, Evan Reed, Lauren Nuxoll, Andrew Bailey, or Andy Daleiden.