Tuesday night’s election results handed Republicans a majority in the Senate, and an expanded GOP presence in the House — part of shifting midterm political tides The Blue Review parsed in our latest issue. But in local politics a major shift took place in the agency responsible for managing the City of Boise’s roadways: the Ada County Highway District.

Commissioner-elect Paul Woods.

Commissioner-elect Paul Woods.

Paul Woods won a crowded, six-way race for the District No. 3 seat while Kent Goldthorpe unseated ACHD Vice President Mitchell Juarena in the District No. 4 post. Juarena was only recently installed as ACHD commissioner to fill the seat vacated by the outgoing Dave Case, now an Ada County Commissioner.

Craig Quintana, the ACHD’s Chief Information Officer, indicated that the new commissioners may represent a new swing vote.

“They’re going to bring their views and perspectives to the table, but ultimately it takes three votes to guide policy. Whatever position they take will bring that swing vote. At the staff level, we always have to be able to count to three, and that’s going to hold sway going forward,” said Quintana.

Asked specifically if Woods and Goldthorpe would mean changes for ACHD regarding friction between ACHD and the City of Boise, Quintana couldn’t say.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know if they’ve tipped that balance. We’ll just have to see what they believe once they get here. Once you’re in the inside, things often look a little differently than they look from the outside perspective.”

But news of the ACHD commission’s new makeup may well be an early Christmas present for Mayor Dave Bieter. As reported in Boise Weekly, the mayor publicly expressed his desire to see new leadership at the commission — a wish that came true Tuesday, Nov. 4.

The Idaho Statesman‘s Cynthia Sewell caught up with the candidates and Mayor Bieter on Nov. 5

In recent years Ada County residents have watched a back and forth between ACHD and the county’s largest city over many street issues including downtown bike lanes and the placement of “smart” parking sensors in roadways. Vince Trimboli, City of Boise Community Relations Supervisor, stressed the city’s hopes for better collaboration going forward.

“We’re hopeful that the changes at the ACHD commission will lead to the ability to be more collaborative with them, and bring about the best result for the citizens of Boise,” he said.

Trimboli cited the results of the ACHD race, and the city’s successful push for a new fire safety bond as evidence voters are in sync with the city’s approach.

“We want to work collaboratively with ACHD — we always have — and we hope this gives us the ability to provide quality road sevices to Boiseans,” he said.

Trimboli said Boise City Council members have expressed dissatisfaction with ACHD’s decision-making process.

“Their biggest thing is that they want to have the ability to be a part of the decision process before the decision is made,” he said. “They want to be sure that whatever decisions are being made are hand in hand with our land use and transportation planning. The [ACHD] model is certainly failed in that area, in that we have designs and plans for our city, but without control of the roads we can’t always ensure that happens.”

Commissioner-elect Kent Goldthorpe.

Commissioner-elect Kent Goldthorpe.

Quintana at ACHD said that the District is used to frequent turnover.

“We’ll have to see once the commssioners-elect get in here and make their will known. It’s going to be one of those adjustment phases, but honestly we’re pretty used to it,” he said. “It happens every two years.”

A change in the commission’s makeup could mean different outcomes in tussles over the City of Boise’s multimodal transportation priorities. In June, a controversial vote not to renew a 30-day downtown bike lane pilot project was decided by commissioners Rebecca Arnold and the outgoing Jaurena.

According to Quintana, the new commission has choices to make come January 7.

“One of their first big decisions is to elect a president,” said Quintana. “Juarena was the sitting vice president, and all indications were he was going to be elevated to president should he carry the day in his race.”

Commission presidency constitutes a leadership role and influence in setting the commission’s agenda. Woods and Goldthorpe will impact selection of the new “face” of the ACHD.

“Right off the bat, they’re going to have to make a big decision about who’s going to the lead the commission,” said Quintana, “and the two newcomers will have a large role in that.”

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.

  • TS

    Great reporting, Mr. Crisp. The highway district is deceptively vital because transportation decisions are really land-use decisions, because highways sprawl is the death of affordable housing, because ACHD is a notorious example of rural thinking about urban problems, because mix-used transit-friendly development lowers everyone’s rent and property taxes, because roads run amok means subsidies for phony single-use edge cities like Edwards and Meridian’s Village, because the curse of Boise’s boom-bust economy are roads to nowhere that foster unsustainable housing projects, and because ACHD, with Woods, is now a patch of blue in a red sea–a bridgehead for people who see the connection between private wealth and public investment.

  • Andrew

    Here’s a quick post-publish note: Craig Quintana pointed out that the Ada County Highway District polled residents, and found that they weren’t willing to give up a vehicle travel lane for a bike lane on Capitol Boulevard. I asked Quintana about criticism that ACHD solicited feedback from the entire county regarding the specific transportation issue facing one municipality.

    He called that a canard, and said that as the economic engine of the Valley, the roadways within the City of Boise — Capitol Boulevard specifically, in this case — benefit drivers from across the county.

    I followed up: Don’t commuters from outside the City of Boise, then, unfairly enjoy both lower property taxes from living in smaller cities with fewer amenities, while also enjoying easy access to the downtown Boise job market? Quintana said it cuts both ways — that downtown businesses, restaurants etc. benefit from the increased activity from residents county-wide.

  • boisecitizen

    During last week’s Community Mobility Institute (sponsored by the Sonoran Institute), the visiting speakers and panelists were sincerely puzzled by the fact that Boise didn’t have control of its own streets. In presentation after presentation, we saw examples of successful transitions from vehicle-centered policy to one that reflected freedom of mobility choices, boosted economic development and attracted energy and investment with minimal impact to vehicle traffic.

    I’m curious about Mr. Quintana’s reference to ‘polling’ residents. Was this a statistically significant random sample of ages, zip codes and incomes levels, or was it (like) the ‘polls’ taken in the heat of the brief pilot bike lane pilot? During the pilot, an out-of-state conservative talk-show host portrayed bike lanes as part of a vast U.N. Agenda 21 conspiracy to take away their cars, and encouraged his followers to flood the online poll and ACHD in boxes with opposition.

    If 90% of your residents aren’t cyclists, should you be surprised when a majority of residents don’t care about cycling? Was there an attempt to educate the public about the reasons behind the changes and the economic, traffic flow, public health and safety benefits beforehand (according to accepted best practices)?

    ACHD’s own data showed the bike lanes achieving their stated goals: fewer bikes on sidewalks, more bikes in the lanes, and no slowdown in vehicle flow on Capitol (despite the bizarre configuration creating on-street parking where none existed, and restricting site lines for traffic entering CB). Local businesses on Main Street were understandably unhappy; some didn’t know what the plan was until ACHD workers showed up to remove their on-street parking spaces.

    As a taxpayer and resident, I want policy to be based on evidence and best practices, not uninformed personal opinion. Here’s hoping ACHD begins to take this responsibility seriously, and engages all partners and stakeholders in respectful, reasoned deliberation based on facts. It’s time for us to move forward as a mature, forward-looking region.