By Mark Barnes
People have been talking about a railroad overpass in Kuna for over 20 years and this time, efforts by the Ada County Highway District, the City of Kuna, Union Pacific, The Idaho Transportation Department and the U.S. Department of Transportation will result in at least a plan to act upon. Past studies by ACHD in 1995, in 2006 by ACHD, ITD, Swan Falls Development and the City of Kuna, and in 2012 with the downtown corridor plan have failed to identify solutions or come up with a plan of action.
Last week at Kuna High School, ACHD hosted a public workshop to identify the need, location and feasibility of a crossing over the Union Pacific railroad and Indian Creek that would not block emergency response or undue waits by the public. As Kuna grows, this need rises.
Currently there are 10 to 25 trains per day averaging about 120 cars according to Union Pacific. The delay is one to three minutes per train. The longer delays happen when a second train must use the second track to allow another train to pass. Estimates are that by 2040 there will be on average 52 trains per day.
Over three days the public was invited to attend workshops to identify the most likely routes and locations for a railroad overpass in Kuna. Those results will help focus ACHD to pinpoint sites that are most feasible, cost effective and supported by the public. Over 60 people attended the first two days of workshops.
On the third evening of workshops, the top results were presented to those attending and opened up for further comments. The three options recommended for further review include an extension of 10-mile road with an overpass over Indian Creek and the tracks, a north-south crossing from Linder Road to Swan Falls Road, and an east-west crossing linking east and west Avalon Streets through the city park. With the proposed construction of this overpass, there will most likely be a closure of one at-grade railroad crossing in the area.
Several other options were considered including an extension of State Highway 69 (Meridian Road), locating an additional emergency services station on the south side of Kuna and a pedestrian/bike only bridge at Bridge Avenue.
Options not favored by the public included a Bridge Avenue crossing, relocating the switchyard and/or tracks and other crossing locations at School Avenue, Hubbard Road, Deer Flat Road, Stroebel Road, Kay Street, Ardell Road and Orchard Avenue.
Attendees also identified their biggest concerns when it came to an overpass project. Both safety (27 percent) and mobility
(28 percent) scored highest for concern followed by economic impact
(16 percent) and feasibility
Mitchell Jaurena, ACHD commissioner, said, “At the end of this process we will have a plan.”
Jaurena also explained that the location choice could impact the cost and start time of the project. The earliest they would begin the construction is five years he said.
There is a meeting scheduled for September 5 to present the results of this workshop and to discuss the next phase of the project.
If you did not have an opportunity to participate in the workshops, you may still review the options that were discussed and give your input. The deadline is July 25. You can visit www.achdidaho.org or stop by the Kuna Melba Office at 326 Avenue D in Kuna and get a comment form and map.