I’ve been providing updates in my blog regarding the city’s strategic plan focus areas. You have heard about growth, business and economic vitality, public health and safety, a vibrant and sustainable community and government excellence. This final blog takes a look at Transportation and Infrastructure as a focus area. Here is what our Strategic Plan states the following as it relates to transportation and infrastructure:
Meridian will prioritize citizen desires for a more connected and safe community infrastructure. We will engage our partners and utilize resources to advance priority projects. We will develop a safe and connected system that includes pathways, sidewalks and a multi-modal approach to solve congestion challenges and roadway deficiencies.
To achieve success in this focus area – an area that has long been the most important issue for our residents, we have identified several key goals (listed below) that our departments are actively working on.
Advance construction of transportation projects on priority arterial roadways to reduce commute times and improve efficient movement within and about Meridian.
Over the past two years we have worked closely with our transportation partners to advance the construction of the Linder Road Overpass at I-84. Once constructed, this project will relieve traffic on Ten Mile and Meridian Roads and create a new north/south connection within our community. Through this partnership with Ada County Highway District (ACHD) and the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), the design for this project is nearly complete. And, with ACHD committing funds in their budget; they will begin right-of-way purchases soon to allow for the construction of this project. Additionally, our staff has applied for a Strategic Initiatives Program grant with ITD. If awarded, this grant will help fund the construction of the overpass. I am hopeful this is another piece of the funding puzzle - to add Linder to the list of construction projects in the near future - to improve our north/south arterial connections.
North Meridian saw a major project completed in July of this year, when Chinden Boulevard (Hwy 20/26) was constructed from Meridian Road to Locust Grove. Using Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue (STAR) funding through ITD and private sector developers, the widening of Chinden was advanced in the construction timeline. Improvements along Chinden - advanced by development - have improved traffic flows, upgraded intersections and provided public pathways which make us a more connected community.
In collaboration with ACHD, we are also working to get Ustick Road advanced further towards Owyhee High School. As part of ACHD putting a new maintenance facility on Ustick, our two agencies discussed the importance of this corridor. Not only was ACHD able to advance the plans for widening of Ustick between Ten Mile and Black Cat, but also Black Cat to McDermott as we look to make a connection to Owyhee, an important community gathering place.
Prioritize plan and advocate for road and sidewalk improvements making connections to increase accessibility and safety while traveling to schools, parks and areas of community interest.
Our commitment to safety for the community is paramount for our children and their families to feel comfortable getting to our schools, parks and other areas of community interest. That is why we started the Meridian Intersection and Pedestrian Safety Task Force in February of this year. This committee has examined over 130 intersections in the city through rigorous analysis, using crash data, hazard identification and community engagement. The task force developed recommendations on over 100 opportunities to improve safety and are delivering a final report to City Council in October. As part of this effort, the task force examined streetlighting, speed, crossings and striping as they looked for opportunities to improve safety and walkability in those areas.
In South Meridian, our partnership with the Brighton Group and ACHD recently fostered the completion of the Lake Hazel Road widening and improvement in front of Discovery Park to Locust Grove, along with the intersection of Locust Grove and associated sidewalk improvements. The remainder of the construction project, which is going to improve the Eagle Road and Lake Hazel intersection-approach legs will start in the next few months. Once complete, this project will give our citizens and first responders better access to the park and surrounding developments. These improvements in South Meridian will mean that Eagle Road and Lake Hazel Road will each have 4 through lanes, bike and pedestrian facilities, providing our citizens with greater accessibility and safety to Discovery Park, the newly opened Fire Station 7 and other places of interest in South Meridian.
Enhance our pathway network through property investment, agreement and construction to create continuous pathways and additional connection points.
Our Parks Department has been working to construct several multi-use pathway segments that will connect key destinations within our community. As pathway mileage has increased in Meridian, our focus has shifted towards filling in the remaining ‘gaps’ to create greater continuity throughout the system. We are intent on expanding safe alternatives for both recreation and commuting that give active residents a much-needed respite from our busy roadways.
Last year we completed a pathway segment on Fairview Avenue, part of the Fivemile Pathway, the longest major route in our system. Currently, we are constructing a ‘Golden Spike’ pathway segment between Ten Mile and Black Cat Roads that will connect two existing runs of pathway. This will result in over 7 miles of connected multi-use pathway, much of it along the Fivemile Creek.
In the interest of strengthening connections to the north, we recently completed two sidewalk widening projects on Linder Road. Another sidewalk widening project recently kicked off along Locust Grove Road. This will provide a continuous 10’ wide route from McMillan to Chinden that is separate from the roadway.
Staff recently initiated a project to build a pathway between Mary McPherson Elementary and the nearby Reflection Ridge Subdivision. This will add a safe, walkable route where previously students had to be bussed or driven to school due to a lack of sidewalks. This project, in partnership with West Ada School District and a private landowner, enhances equity in South Meridian by giving students the opportunity to walk, an option that currently exists at most elementary schools in town.
Invest and provide streetlighting to increase overall safety and walkability in neighborhoods.
Over the last several years, streetlights have been incorporated into several road widening projects such as along Chinden and Eagle Road, and also on corridors such as Pine headed east out of downtown, and along Locust Grove between Pine and Fairview to name a few. Previously, we have added new streetlights around Chaparral and Chief Joseph Elementary schools, and were able to do 465 and 499 LED conversions in 2021 and 2022, respectively. By the end of this year we will have completed an additional 36 new lights and 50 upgrades in underserved areas, and 43 those upgrades and new lights in areas that are considered “Safe Routes to School Zones”. We will have also converted a total of 384 lights to LED’s which are brighter and save money for taxpayers through lower operating costs. Well-lit streets also help deter crime in those areas, so improving lighting makes a big impact in improving safety.
Over the past year, our Public Works department created our first ever Streetlight Master Plan which identifies areas that are currently underserved in the community. The plan also provides a roadmap for future leaders to develop funding, secure grants and work with our intersection and pedestrian safety task force to move new projects and lighting forward.
As you can see, we have been making lots of progress when it comes to the focus we have on Transportation and Infrastructure. I hope you found interest in this series about our City’s Strategic Plan. We will keep working the plan, but you can always learn more by visiting our plan at www.meridiancity.org/strategicplan.