Beacon Light Road expansion deferred for a year

EAGLE, Idaho (KBOI) - Plans to widen a rural, residential road from two lanes to five is sparking controversy in Eagle.

Neighbors who live near Beacon Light Road say they love the quiet, rural area they live in, and are stepping up to try and stop ACHD from moving forward with the major expansion project.

However, ACHD said plans have already been approved to build thousands of new homes in the area, and that they'll need to widen roads like Beacon Light Road as a result.

Right now, it's a quiet drive down Beacon Light Road. That's something Cheryl Bloom loves about the place she has called home for more than 20 years.

"People can ride their bikes up and down the road, we can ride our horses" Bloom said. "Basically, we love just the quietness."

But sleepy streets and open land could soon be a tale of what once was. ACHD plans to widen the road from two lanes to five in order to make a major arterial connecting Highway 16 and Highway 55.

"Those roads on the north side of Eagle, they're going to get busier just as the area grows and more and more people move there," ACHD spokesman Craig Quintana said. "It's inevitable."

Over the next 20 to 25 years, the highway district said there will be thousands of new homes built in Eagle and the surrounding foothills. While construction hasn't started, ACHD says the plans have already been approved.

"The growth genie is out of the bottle," Quintana said. "ACHD isn't the one who let it loose. So the reality is the growth is coming. All those thousands of rooftops are going to be there whether it's five, 10 or 20 years down the line."

The highway district says projections show there will be 7 1/2 times more traffic on Beacon Light Road by 2035 than there is today. They say that means they need to widen roads to keep up.

"We have to plan for the future," Quintana said. If you don't you're essentially planning for the future but you're just planning for it to be a mess."

But Bloom and other Eagle residents say a five-lane road running through a residential area would create a mess of its own.

"Five lanes! It's like, imagine Fairview. That's five lanes," Bloom said. "So, just, no. We're hoping that we can keep our community as unique as it is. We want to keep it as rural. That's why we live here."

But the highway district says this road would be more of a residential arterial, featuring more narrow lanes, bike lanes, and sidewalks.

While neighbors say they would be fine with a three-lane road, ACHD says with all the development that has been approved, that wouldn't meet the demand of traffic. Quintana says the project will cost around $35 million.

A final decision will be made on the expansion Wednesday night.

Neighbors are asking ACHD to postpone their decision, so that Eagle residents can take time to decide what to do with the road since they are the ones that will be using it. Bloom says she would also like to see developers take traffic concerns into consideration before they build new developments.

While ACHD says they would love to keep the road as is, or only expand it to three lanes, Quintana says that's very unlikely. However, he said if commissioners give them the green light Wednesday night, the project wouldn't break ground for several years.

Quintana also said ACHD can always scale back their expansion plans or downsize the road if the city of Eagle worked with developers to stall or stop plans for development.

Neighbors who live off Beacon Light Road say if the expansion gets approved, and ACHD doesn't take into consideration their point of view, they'll keep fighting.

"We'll figure out what the next step and move up," Bloom said. "This fight is not ending with Beacon Light Road."