Crossing the River: Pedestrian Bridge will Improve Safety, Reduce Traffic, and Connect Community
By Monica Pierce
Twenty-five years ago, when the stretch of Eagle Road that crosses over Boise River was built, there were less than 10,000 residents in the City of Eagle. At that time, there was no need to accommodate any pedestrian traffic crossing the river.
Now, with more than 30,000 residents and growing at a steady rate of 4.5% annually, roughly one fourth of Eagle’s population lives south of the river. But with no safe or reasonable route for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the river into downtown Eagle, the city is disconnected and plagued by traffic and congestion.
In 2013, the city began evaluating the best way to make this crucial junction more pedestrian-friendly. The city initially considered options that would utilize the existing roadway such as the addition of barriers or re-striping to define safe crossing for pedestrians. But at a cost of roughly $500,000 with no assurance that the road wouldn’t someday be widened by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and eliminate any pedestrian accommodations, it was determined that modifications to the existing bridge was not the best solution.
City leadership agreed that a separate structure that runs parallel to the roadway, connecting the greenbelt paths on either side of the river, was in fact the best solution. A separate structure dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists ensures long-term viability, while allowing ITD to do what it might need to do in the future to accommodate vehicle traffic on the Eagle Road bridge.
With a plan in place, the city began working with the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho to come up with a design for the pedestrian bridge and in 2014 a Project Development application was submitted to the state.
At the city’s open house on September 23rd, citizens were asked to rate the importance of the pedestrian bridge project amongst city priorities. About 98% responded that the project is of very high importance. When asked how much money should be spent on the project, about 70% said that we should invest whatever funds are necessary to ensure it is done properly.
Such response from the community reminds city officials that the importance of the project is evident. With multiple benefits including increased safety of pedestrians and cyclists, reduced traffic along the state’s busiest stretch of roadway, and connection of outlying corners of the Eagle community, the value of the bridge is easy to see. Obtaining the necessary funds to build it, however, is not so easy.
The project is expected to cost $2.4 million – a substantial price tag for a city whose annual planning budget is roughly $900,000. The project team has already secured $250,000 through a federal grant, which has allowed engineering and design work to begin. Meridian-based firm TO Engineers is leading the development of the project.
To ensure kick-off of construction in 2024, the city is working diligently to identify the remaining funds for the project, which will likely come from a combination of additional federal funding plus use of the City of Eagle’s general fund and impact fees from trails and parks.
According to city planner Nichoel Baird Spencer, the design and engineering plans for the pedestrian bridge are about halfway complete. The team is working with the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council (LHTAC) to provide engineering oversight, ensuring the bridge meets state requirements which will, in turn, make the project eligible for state and federal funding.
If the project continues to run according to plan, a bid for construction will be released in 2023.
Projects like the pedestrian bridge are becoming quite commonplace for our rapidly-expanding city. A similar project was recently completed for an underpass at Dry Creek Road and State Highway 44 to the west of Eagle Road. In September, the city also finished a preliminary study for an under- or overpass of Highway 44 east of Eagle Road.
With substantial investment in such improvements, it is the hope of city planners that the community will benefit from increased safety along and across the State Highway system, utilize and enjoy the additional access options into Downtown Eagle, and that these facilities will enhance the beauty and quality of life in Eagle for many years to come.
For questions about the Eagle Road bridge project or other city development efforts, please visit cityofeagle.org or call 208-939-0227.