Nampa seeks to divert busy highway from downtown

On a typical day, approximately 25,000 vehicles pass through the Nampa Library Square block on National Highway 45.

Since Idaho 45 passes through downtown Nampa, freight trucks often get in the way of cars and pedestrians. The city of Nampa is now exploring potential ways to adjust the highway to avoid the city center.

“The goal is how can we try to get the truck traffic out of the city center, improve that regional access to I-84,” said Jeff Barnes, deputy director of public works for Nampa, “instead of pushing everyone through that restricted area of ​​the Library Square block. Part of the process right now is just getting feedback from the public.”

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The Nampa Public Works Department will be holding an open house from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Nampa Civic Center to discuss the possible realignment of the Idaho 45. Maps and diagrams explaining the situation will be available for participants to pose. questions and give their opinion. These are only the first phases of the project, however, as another public meeting is scheduled for February and the study could be completed around September 2022.

The study is important, Barnes said, because it involves looking at how Nampa was originally built versus what is best for the future. It’s easier to collect feedback sooner than later.

“We want to improve freight capacity,” Barnes said. “We want to improve traffic in the city, then protect pedestrians and only this city center from the big trucks circulating in the shopping areas in the city center. “

“Not ideal”

Idaho 45 connects Owyhee County and southern Canyon County to Interstate 84, serving as a key agribusiness and freight route.

The city has been considering a route change since 2011, when the Nampa Development Corporation concluded that Idaho 45 should move away from downtown. The route uses 12th Avenue South, 11th Avenue North, and Garrity Boulevard, which means trucks pass through the Library Square block. This limits economic opportunities and creates congestion and safety problems, according to the study from 10 years ago.

But the money never came and the project stalled.

The Federal Highway Administration has been working with Nampa on its assessment of planning and environmental linkages since May. The open house is the next step in this study. For anything to be implemented, however, it will take several more years and tens of millions of dollars.

“This study is necessary because it will exclude some alignments that are not feasible,” said Barnes. “We have looked at alignments in the past, but now this study is necessary if we are to seek federal funding in the future. We need to determine some of these other factors that would rule out alignments. “

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The streets of Nampa are sloping, Barnes said, because they were originally designed on the basis of the railroad. The rest of Nampa was set up north-south. This makes it difficult for people driving on the south side of Nampa to get to the highway. Barnes called it “just not ideal.”

Trucks coming and going from Amalgamated Sugar and Simplot often have to cross downtown. Business owners have expressed concern over their need for fewer trucks and a more walkable area.

“You have people shopping this downtown hallway and walking through the core of our downtown core,” Barnes said, “that we want to make more vibrant, more livable, and more attractive to people. And then these big trucks have to go through there. “

Several ideas on the table

Nampa is considering several ideas. One is to move the freeway to 16th Avenue. Another leaves the same route while improving and widening the roads.

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It is early enough in the process that specific plans are far from being decided. Since the city is only evaluating feasible options, it wants people to have a say.

“It’s really important that citizens engage at these early levels,” said Nampa spokeswoman Amy Bowman, “because it’s so much easier sooner than later.”