Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kicks and Kisses for ACHD

ACHD - Ada County Highway District. It's the multi-jurisdictional agency that plans and implements roadway additions, changes, and maintenance in the Boise area. And is constantly a hot topic of discussion among local roadway users. (Often to the point of "official" debating about whether the agency should be dissolved, and roadway duties returned to the various cities, and the county government.)

From my bicyclist viewpoint, I'm generally satisfied with the job ACHD does.

They seem genuinely interested in expanding and maintaining a bike-friendly infrastructure. As big projects are undertaken, they always include bike lanes and such, when appropriate.

But sometimes they come up with a real noodle-scratcher.

An obvious example would be their striping and marking of "turn-only" vehicle lanes, so they cross bicycle lanes. (I've commented before on the worst one I'm aware of - click HERE to review, and see a photo.) This is not an isolated situation; there are several that I ride through regularly. (I'm always paying attention and am aware of the pitfalls; I worry that a less-experienced cyclist might fare much worse if not paying close attention.)

Also, they installed a marvelous bike-pedestrian pathway that parallels Federal Way for miles and miles. It's smooth. It has an awesome view in many places. BUT - since it's two-way, and runs alongside a two-way roadway with multiple intersections, curb cuts, etc., it's an accident-magnet for cyclists and/or motorists who aren't paying attention. (I ride in the traffic lane to avoid unexpected conflicts; it obviously wasn't designed by a transportation cyclist.)

Other gripes that EVERYBODY gripes about (with good reason, IMO):

Some of their projects make no sense at all. I recently rode Gary Lane... it's an arterial road that is one of my regulars. They've roto-milled it up, for new pavement. What was wrong with the old pavement??? Gary Lane was one of the really nice, smooth roads, with nice bike lanes! I bet it's a half-million dollars or more for the current project... and why?

Some of their projects are ill-timed. For example, they recently chip-sealed Amity, between Maple Grove and Cloverdale. (Chip-sealing is another topic of debate. It's the practice of laying down a thin layer of tar and gravel chips, to extend the life of roads for substantially less $ than an asphalt overlay.) Well... two weeks later, the warning signs are up that one of the utility companies is closing and tearing up Amity... just days after the chip-sealing project. Doesn't the right hand know what the left hand is doing?

They seem to tear up a road as they get started on a project, and put up their orange barrels, signs, etc. ... and then move on to another project for a few weeks, leaving the users of the torn-up road to suffer and grumble. Why can't they finish a project, and then move on to the next one?

Finally... they have a tendency to do projects on multiple roads simultaneously, creating situations where there are no detour opportunities. The area west of Boise has a grid of parallel arterial roads exactly 1 mile apart; this summer, ACHD has had 4 or 5 of those roads torn up simultaneously... meaning an 8 or 10 mile detour if you wanted to completely avoid their construction projects.

(I know... it's easy to sit in my armchair and quarterback. But it seems that no matter how expert they are at road construction projects, they leave a lot to be desired when it comes to scheduling. And... I understand that they are severely limited as to what they can do during the "cold" months, but still...)

(Click HERE to link to ACHD's website.)


db said...

You'll never find a lot of people who love their roadway/highway/transportation department. Road construction sucks. And I can tell you that some of the scheduling snafus that you mention are the fault of contractors, not the department.

However, I don't believe that ACHD does a great job either. I've been around several projects long enough to know that they rarely have a comprehensive plan, and when they do, they don't always want to stick to it. So in the end, I think the criticism of the agency is warranted, and it wouldn't make me sad if roadway maintenance was returned to the municipalities.

Anonymous said...

There are probably many grips and Kudos to be said about ACHD. My most recent grip- clean up the chipsealing faster- loose gravel on corners.

Kudo- good facilities in the Downtown area for bikes.