Appropriately enough, the Boise River flows right through the city of Boise. This beautiful natural asset is beloved by sportsman, photographers, and just about everyone except drivers. The river runs its course, oblivious to the grid-needs of map and road makers. Learning to navigate Boise’s streets and neighborhoods is a challenge for newcomers because of the river and its geological influence on the benches and floodplains that cradle neighborhoods and commercial districts. Automobile traffic crosses the river via six bridges.
The Broadway Bridge, originally built in 1892 and reconstructed in 1956, was too narrow and unable to safely accommodate today’s transportation needs, and it was slowly crumbling into the water below.
Despite the obvious need for changes to the existing structure, there was debate about how to go about it. Some wanted to keep the historic bridge in place and simply remodel it. Everyone worried how Boiseans would survive a construction project of this magnitude on a vital conduit that shuttles people to and from a major regional hospital complex, and Boise State University—with it’s fall football season that attracts 20 – 30,000 Broncomaniacs to the stadium huddled in the elbow of the Boise River and Broadway Avenue.
In 2012, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) began a lengthy and involved process of stakeholder and public outreach which culminated with the decision to deconstruct the old bridge completely, thus obliterating this important transportation link. Residents across town, but we east-enders in particular, fretted over the ramifications of this drastic measure. The adjacent streets and neighborhoods would be devastated by increased commuter traffic and already glutted intersections would be rendered untenable!
I am here to testify that ITD managed the challenges of this project with admirable aplomb and success. Stakeholders and residents were notified by email of each step along the way to a new bridge. In January of 2016, construction began with noisy deconstruction of the old bridge and annoying pounding as pilings were driven into the riverbed. This was hard on those living near the river, but it didn’t last for long. Throughout the process, businesses near the bridge were hugely impacted. Their salvation may have been the hungry work crews who received grateful discounts for lunches and dinners.
On the plus side, the work continued day and night, ensuring completion in time for the first fall 2016 Bronco Nation home game. (I can’t tell you how many people I spoke with who doubted the viability of the proposed completion date!)
Personally I was delighted to discover that during the nine months of construction so many commuters avoided Broadway Avenue that I could bike across that normally death-defying corridor without even dismounting.
And as of September 9, 2016, we have a beautiful new bridge that will, hopefully, serve us for generations into the future.
The new Broadway bridge is an example of an urban design and construction project that should serve as a model for all future projects—in Boise, or wherever such major disruptive projects loom. Boston could learn something from Boise!
I would further propose that the new Broadway Bridge be named the Clausen Bridge in honor of it’s lead designer, who died prematurely and unexpectedly of an aneurysm in March 2016. Thank you Ken Clausen. Thank you ITD.