The history of ACHD and the road map for the future

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Potholes, more importantly, the location of those potholes, symbolize the transportation mess facing Ada County in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"The potholes were in Boise City limits, because the Boise government, the city council, didn't have the money it needed to maintain the streets properly," said Susan Stacy, a local historian.

And city residents were taxed twice. They paid a city tax for municipal road maintenance and a county tax.

"But the county was not spending any money in the cities," Stacy said.

Plus state lawmakers gave the county more appropriation money than the cities. The result? Good roads in the county, crummy roads in the cities.

"The planning for transportation needs was disjointed," said Charles Hummel, a well known local architect who has worked with both the city and county planning commissions. "There was no uniform way to handle it. Some things got too much attention. The county was building roads to nowhere.The solution was to have a countywide district, and that required legislative approval."

In 1971, the legislature approved a special election. Voters in a county of 75,000 or more residents could decide to combine all city and county road functions into one independent governmental agency.

So, in 1972, the Ada County Highway District was born.

But recently, ACHD commissioners and Boise City leaders have had very public disagreements about how the city's roads should be used.

They've clashed over bike lanes, parking meters and roundabouts.

In fact some of those disputes between ACHD and the city of Boise can get as heated as, well, driving a chipper box on a hot July day in the blazing sun.

"It's a difficult situation," said Mary Ann Jordan, Boise City council president. "Like I said, it doesn't exist anywhere else. But cities need to be able to plan their own roadway facilities. And this set up we have here makes that very difficult to do."

"There's some friction in the system, but there's also checks and balances," said Craig Quintana, ACHD spokesman. "You need consensus to get the deal done and some could argue that's a good thing."

Hummel, there at the beginning, still thinks the creation of an independent county highway district was the right thing to do and he believes the disputes will be resolved.

But local leaders are still looking for the road map that will lead to that end.