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Delays for Boise transit hub endanger federal funds

BOISE – Idaho could lose a third of a $9.6 million federal grant to build a transit center in Boise due to delays by local officials in deciding where to build it.

Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo secured the money in a 2005 transportation bill. The center will be a hub for buses, bikes, pedestrians and taxis.

But the deadline for deciding where to spend $3.2 million is Sept. 30. All $9.6 million needs to be obligated by September 2011.

Valley Regional Transit chose a site at 11th and Idaho streets and planned construction in 2010. However, a new plan has emerged using 10th Street between Main and Bannock.

That plan would need approval from the Ada County Highway District because it uses a road managed by that entity.

Rebecca Arnold, a commissioner on the highway district who also sits on the advisory committee that recommended the 11th Street site, said she thought that was still the plan until learning two weeks ago about the possible change.

“I don’t know why they kept me out of the loop, but I didn’t know anything about it, and I am on the committee,” Arnold said.

Changes to Boise streets require public review and approval from the highway district.

“They may have everything all decided, but we have a higher standard of public input,” said Sherry Huber, a highway district commissioner.

The Valley Regional Transit board is scheduled to vote on the new plan on March 18.

The board previously selected a parking lot on 11th Street for the transit center. However, that site is across from land purchased in 2006 by California development company Rafanelli and Nahas, which has concerns about having a transit center nearby.

“I am not going to fib to anybody,” said Jade Riley, a spokesperson for Boise Mayor Dave Bieter’s office. “There was some adjacent landowners who were concerned about that.”

Kelli Fairless, director of Valley Regional Transit, said construction on the 11th Street site is still planned for 2010.

However, she said, “I really believe we are doing the public a disservice if we don’t consider (the new site).”

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