Proposed changes to Nampa intersection stirring up controversy

NAMPA, Idaho (KBOI) - A busy downtown Nampa intersection is stirring up controversy between the city and local businesses.

The City of Nampa said they're proposing some major changes around the new Library Square. Those plans include converting several two-way streets into one-way streets, and making changes to the intersection at 11th Avenue and 1st Street South.

Engineers believe the proposed plans should improve traffic flow and would help bring more business downtown. However, some existing businesses in the downtown area feel it would hurt them more than it would help.

At the intersection of 11th Avenue and 1st Street South, proposed changes would remove the designated left-hand turn lane. Instead, drivers would have the option to turn left or drive straight through, but drivers turning left would have to yield to oncoming traffic.

"We just haven't seen a lot of left hand turns there in the past," city engineer Len Grady said. "With a minimal number of left-hand turns, there's going to be plenty of gaps in traffic so people can get across safely."

Grady says the change would also help make it easier to get into Nampa's core.

"If we can get more traffic moving through more efficiently, I think it will help spark more business downtown really," Grady said.

However, Grady said they have been getting some negative feedback from small businesses in the area on 1st Street South, who feel they will be left behind.

Dave Lancaster owns a men's clothing shop on the block, and has for 55 years. He said without a left green turn arrow, his shop and many others around him would take a hit because people wouldn't be able access their street easily.

"I run off of direct traffic," Lancaster said. "When they come in and pull up front, that's our number one source. A lot of people come in on that turn lane. It could take 20 percent of our business away really easily, and we need every dollar coming through that we can."

He said that it's not just about business anymore, it's personal.

"We're emotional, and they don't seem to care," he said.

However, city engineers said they are paying attention to what business owners are saying.

"With the recent concerns, we're going back and taking a look at our designs," Grady said. "We're making sure we have the flexibility to react in the future."

Engineers will meet with Nampa City Council on May 5, 2014 to discuss the issue. The council will have the final say on the proposed changes, however, engineers plan to monitor the process and make any adjustments they find become necessary.

As an example, Grady said if he noticed people weren't getting across oncoming traffic safely, they could fix the light within one day.