Workers begin ground testing for future Broadway Avenue bridge

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- If you crossed the Broadway Bridge over the Boise RIver Thursday, and tens of thousands of you did, you probably noticed some odd looking heavy equipment.

Construction workers have started the preliminary stages of building a new bridge over the Boise River on Broadway Avenue.

"We're doing pile-driving testing," said Adam Rush, spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), "and so we're looking at the ground in the area and what kind of condition that is in."

The present Broadway Bridge was built in 1956, replacing a bridge originally built in 1892.

But ITD says the 1950s bridge is too old and narrow now while the community around it grows at record-setting paces.

ITD says on an average day more than 24,000 cars cross this bridge along with pedestrians, of course, and bicyclists.

According to ITD, the bridge has a mid-range sufficiency ranking of 48 out of a scale of 100, but the transportation department says that doesn't mean there is a public hazard.

Construction of a new bridge should start in early 2015 at a cost of $16 million dollars. Money to build the bridge comes from vehicle registration, the gas tax and other fees.

But there are two big decisions to make.

First, what should the new bridge look like? Three designs are under review, all with one thing in common.

"The new bridge is going to be three lanes in each direction," said Rush. " Three lanes northbound, and three lanes southbound."

(The bridge currently has two lanes each direction.)

Secondly, should the bridge be completely closed during construction, with traffic redirected around the site? Or partially closed, with traffic just trickling through?

Partial closure would double the construction time to 16 months.

The Idaho Transportation Department is seeking plenty of public input because the new bridge is going up at an especially famous gateway into town.

And you know what they say: the lights shine bright on Broadway.