Join the cause! Save my historic street

Editor’s note: For the next several weeks the blog is going to feel different. Some changes proposed for the historic street where I live have me and many others concerned, so this website will function as information central for those who want to hear an alternative plan to the city’s. The tone will be more activist than usual, so please hang with me! Thanks for your support, but of course I have to channel my energy into preserving our historic street.

I live on South Boulevard, and there isn’t another street like it in town. One of the oldest local homes is kitty corner from mine, and Tautphaus Park, the city’s largest park, is within view. Mayday trees line the road, except for a handful of maples and ancient cotton trees. The street was named South Boulevard because it is, by definition, a boulevard, wider than typical residential streets but still clearly residential and filled with historic homes. For years I’ve watched cars roll past with passengers pointing at the houses, and the road serves as location of the Fourth of July parade, arguably one of most well-attended city events annually.

But that might be changing, and here’s why.

Background

In 2018 the city elected to change the striping on our street. Instead of two wide lanes, they added a turning lane. Now there were three lanes for cars. Then in an effort to accommodate people on bikes, they added two bike lanes, bringing the grand lane total to five.

The striping changes had a lot of consequences—no on-street parking for one and tight lanes for another. It’s been pesky but tolerable until a city meeting held June 5 at the Maeck Education Center in Tautphaus Park, when city engineers announced two things:

  • South Boulevard will be embraced as an arterial lane—that means funneling significantly more traffic down the street.
  • In 2021 the west side of South Boulevard between 18th and 21st Streets will be widened to allow another traffic lane to be added. Ten feet of grass and the trees growing therein will be gobbled up to make way for asphalt.

The problem

According to city engineers, there are really two objectives for South Boulevard. One is for it to function as an arterial street, and the other is for it to provide a safe route for bicyclists. But the road simply isn’t wide enough to accomplish both. The city will have to choose one, and folks like me are afraid they’ll value car traffic over everything else.

Including historic value.

The solution

Many large cities celebrate historic boulevards. They install medians, landscape these, and post appropriate signage letting visitors know they’re in a unique area. We are proposing the same.

What we would like the city to do is simple: We want to celebrate the historic nature of the boulevard. Here are three easy steps to do it:

  1. Post appropriate signage. Let’s install signs that say, “Welcome to the Boulevard.” If the city is truly trying to carve out pathways leading downtown, South Boulevard is logistically the ONLY logical road for accomplishing that, but what’s even better is that provides a beautiful backdrop. So let’s embrace its historic nature and celebrate what it alone can offer the community.
  2. Change the striping back to two lanes. With two wide lanes, cyclists and motorists can coexist without issue (like they did for decades before the recent striping change).
  3. Drop the speed limit to 25 mph. This road is a scenic route; many drive it to experience the innate pleasure of a tree-lined street. And for those who simply want to use the road as the shortest distance between two points, let them do it! They’ll just have to drive a bit slower (the current speed is 30), and if that’s annoying, they can take another road.

In a couple days, I’ll post more information about the bike lanes and why they don’t function well. I’ll also be posting photos of homes on our street and information about areas affected by street widening. To widen only a portion of the street is a slippery slope to widening the entire street. In a meeting in his office two weeks ago, city engineer Chris Fredericksen told me that widening this portion of the road will likely prevent congestion problems for years, but if it doesn’t, “we can take as much land as we need.” That is a scary thought.

Engineers are conducting studies now and will make a final recommendation to city council in mid-August. That means we’ve got six weeks to rally together and promote an alternative plan—or we can watch South Boulevard’s charm and distinction dwindle away.

But that’s not really an option for me.

Want to hear from the other side? Contact Fredericksen at 208.709.3575 or pwd@idahofallsidaho.gov. Alternately, you can contact city engineer Ken Fugle at 208.612.8250. Make sure to request an emailed copy of the presentation made June 5; you’ll find the proposed road widening on slide nine.

If you’d like to sign the petition for our alternative plan, please stop by my place after the parade on July 4. I appreciate any and all support. •

68 thoughts

  1. South Boulevard has always been my favorite street in Idaho Falls. There are so many historic homes to ooh and ahh over. And every May I have to roll down my windows so I can savor the aroma of the May Day trees. I hope the city leaders will be careful, once trees are pulled out and asphalt is added it’s going to be difficult to replace the charm that is lost.

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  2. This makes me so sad. I don’t live on South Boulevard, but I often drive on it to get home. Even when it’s not the fastest route to my home, I prefer that route so I can look at the beautiful homes and we’ll-maintained yards. The scene and aroma of the Mayday trees each Spring is otherworldly. What a shame to tear out half of them. We also ride our bikes in Boulevard to get to Tautphaus Park. I can’t imagine taking my kids that way if they go ahead with the proposal as planned. 😩

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  3. I’m so happy you’re fighting this. Everybody I’ve talked to is very mad about this. Hopefully the city listens to the citizen’s voices and considers an alternative plan that doesn’t destroy such an amazing, historic street.

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  4. Thanks for sharing the details on this. I know a lot of people that enjoy driving down South Boulevard due to features such as the park, historic homes, and the landscaping/trees. Besides Hitt Rd, Idaho falls does not have a great road going north and south for bikers. I think it needs to be more biker friendly than the new striping that was put on in 2018. I don’t feel there is room to ride my bike with my family, so we are forced to take over the sidewalk on our way to the park and to visit family.

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  5. Thank you for such an informational post showing both sides. I, like so many have always enjoyed driving down South Boulevard to look at the nice homes and Tautphaus Park. I think your solutions are good ones that I hope are strongly considered to preserve this cute street.

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  6. Thanks for sharing. We were sad when they put in the middle lane! Hopefully we can female then change their mind!

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  7. I love the suggestions that were made to highlight the fantastic area with signage, lower the speed limit and go back to the 2018 stripping. We live a couple blocks from South Boulevard and this area currently has such great charm and is noticed by many that travel here from other areas or even other parts of town to view the fun homes and take their time doing that. I have grown up loving this area and enjoying it with friends and family.

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    1. Would be truly SHAME ON THEM.*(CityCouncilMayir,)…Blvd is perhaps one of the most attractive street in Idaho FALLS… wish we could re-elect …find people who don’t have “destroy everything” as their mantra! They listen only to the sounds of their own mouth! Urrrr!# Beyond Angry over this idea!!!

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  8. Come on Mayor. Stop cutting down trees. Leave them alone. This is one of the most beautiful streets left in our town.

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  9. Oh please don’t widen this road! You already have Yellowstone, Holmes, Woodruff and 25th that are all 4 lanes! Boulevard does not need to be widened! Come on IF!! Preserve the beauty you have!

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  10. Oh no! We live just off S. Blvd on 25th and this sounds like a terrible idea! We would love to sign the petition and get the word out to our neighbors. We have guests on the 4th though. Maybe a neighborhood info meeting or potluck to help drum up more support in the next week or two? I’m happy to help organize, just let me know 🙂

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    1. I love this idea! We welcome any and all help. I will be in touch, and you can stop by my house this weekend to sign the petition if that works for you. I live in the gray house with a yellow door between 22nd and 23rd streets.

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      1. Hi Rebecca, we signed the online petition-is that the same as the one you have at your house? We will swing by if it isn’t. Hopefully you got the info my husband Jeff sent to you from his city manager friend. Please do keep me posted on what else we can help do to organize our neighbors to stop this from happening 🙂

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      1. Yes! We have an online petition live now—-there’s a link on the homepage of my blog and on my July 5 post. Also, there’s a petition on an easel in my front yard this weekend if you’d like to stop by to sign in person. Thanks so much.

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      1. Thank you. I’ve lived on 4th street for 32 years and am willing to help. Please keep us informed.

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  11. This is a great idea. I live on the corner of 18th(on the all ready widened part). The problem is the city does care about our opinions. South blvd has seen increased traffic since they ruined traffic on Holmes. Since then we have seen a steady increase traffic down our residential roads. Then last year they decided to once again continue their agenda based on a meeting from over 3 years prior. Only after the changes were complete did they send out a letter with a FAKE apology. Reminding everyone of a discussion several years prior. They said they would evaluate our concerns however the changes were all ready made. From this experience(and others) the city has proven they do not care about our opinions. They do not care about the impact on us(the people who actually live on the route). They do care about huge potential for the loss of property value to all our homes. They do not care about the impact on our community. Once this change happens they will issue another FAKE apology, pretend to care via a mass mailed letters, and then advise us that change has all ready been made. We will continue to see increased property evaluations, we will see continued traffic routes to our roads, and this will ultimately lead the unfortunate out come of most the homes on our road being sold or moved to rentals.

    I would also like to add that over the past year I have only seen one person using the wonderful addition of the useless bike lane.

    I know my home has been impacted by loss of parking on blvd. Due to the extended right turn lane and bake lane(shares turn lane) but you are welcome to add a sign at house.

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  12. It makes me nervous that you imply that you aren’t happy with the bike lanes. I can get on board with taking out the middle lane, but this city needs bike lanes, and more of them. it’s ridiculous that a city of this size isn’t bike friendly all over.

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    1. Absolutely! The craziest thing about the bike lanes as they are now is how dangerous they are. I’d invite you to watch how few people ride in the bike lanes—— most people are biking the sidewalks, and I never see children on the road. For years and years a single line down the center of the street was enough, and cars and bikes coexisted peacefully. Should the city want to add wider bike lanes after eliminating the turning lane, that would be dandy. And if they want to add sharrows, that would work too.

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      1. This last Monday July 8th I was riding my bike down the street and saw your signs. In the last year I’ve ridden down Boulevard 45 times (mostly commuting from work) and I run on Boulevard frequently at night (the cement sidewalks will destroy most runners legs). I imagine I bike or run Boulevard more often then I drive on it at this point. Prior to 2018 Boulevard was effectively a four lane road with parking on the side. This was terrifying as a cyclist. Most drivers think you are “invading their lane” when you go around a parked car. It also was pretty much inevitable to find a group cars driving around a car turning left took up all the room a cyclist or runner might use. I’ve only felt safe cycling Boulevard since the addition of the bike lanes. Prior to the bike lanes I would ride on Curtis and Water to go North/South through that part of town. These bike lanes are even more valuable in a town like Idaho Falls where many drivers don’t know traffic laws associated with bikes. A dedicated bike lane even a small one with a terrible surface makes its a safe place to travel

        I’m really uncomfortable with your thoughts and many of the commentator’s thoughts on bike transportation. Boulevard will never again be a street where you want a small child riding their bike. There is simply too much traffic even with a speed reduced to 25 mph. A kid on their bike was hit on Boulevard near 17th just last month. Bike lanes are not intended for children just learning to ride. They are intend for people aware of their surroundings and generally traveling between 10 mph and the speed limit. If your last memory of biking was as a child I encourage you to try it again, Idaho Falls can be a great place to bike and your perspective will likely be different.

        I oppose taking more easement for road but I think two wide lanes is counter productive to slowing down cars and will make it hazardous for cyclists once people start driving around people taking left turns.

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  13. Many people on delivered already have very small front yards. Did you take away that space from them is an atrocity. Plus there’s that beautiful Park that doesn’t need a high traffic area. And the beautiful trees would be horrible to have taken down.

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    1. Those yards will be dangerously close to the road when it’s widened. I can’t imagine anyone with children or grandchildren wanting to live there, so then what happens to that stretch of homes?

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  14. You mentioned that we can stop by to sign the petition after the parade. Not sure where the address for that might be? And we won’t be at the actual parade — until what time can we stop by?

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      1. Can we still stop by and sign the petition? I grew up just off South Blvd and it has always been one of my favorites I still drive it often just for the beauty. I would love to help in some way!

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  15. There are few things & places left unscathed in our community due to growth. This is a beautiful and cherished part of our little city that is something to be proud of, still in tact, untouched and cherished by all. Don’t make a huge “unwelcomed” decision, (aka mistake) by taking this from our community. It’s not just about the residents of Boulevard, it’s about all of us who love our city. I’m certain alternative solutions can be found.

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  16. I won’t be here for the 4th but please add my name to the petition. I also live on South Boulevard and love this street. Sunnyside is already impacting our quality of life and increasing traffic on Boulevard would be a disaster. Adding the middle lane, eliminating parking and creating the “bike lane” was a terrible decision. I now ride my bike on the sidewalk because the bike lane is way too narrow.

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  17. Fight city hall! Get all promises in writing! I spent hours working with IF city officials on current downtown projects, and not a single promise I was made has been fulfilled. Not a single suggestion was incorporated. I tried to work within the system and I got absolutely nothing I was promised. The system is designed to pacify you, let you be “heard”, while they do whatever they want. My advice is fight for all you are worth or you will lose.

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    1. Your comment about being “heard” but not really has been on repeat for the last few days. I can’t tell you how many people are frustrated by the lack of city response to concerns. Thanks for your suggestions (and I’d really love to hear about your downtown projects sometime).

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  18. I grew up in the red house on the corner of South Boulevard and 23rd in the picture. It was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in. Such beautiful homes. I would hate to see that changed. I drive by and reminisce every time I come back to visit. Fight the good fight. Your ideas are great!

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    1. Thank you! We are committed to fighting the good fight, and I’d also like to say this isn’t a solo effort; I am surrounded by good, smart people who also promote preservation of the boulevard.

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  19. I grew up in Idaho Falls. I go back to visit my brother when I can. I’ve seen a lot of the changes thru the year’s and not all of them have been for the better. The city needs to learn to leave well enough alone and stop changing everything. Change is not always a good thing.

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  20. You offer solutions to save South Boulevard, but I’m curious what solutions can be offered in regards to the traffic problem in Idaho Falls?

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    1. I’m glad you asked this question. According to the city engineers, there isn’t an actual problem now; rather, they are projecting that if the city continues to grow, more lanes will be needed sometime in the future. But it seems hasty to make drastic changes to well-loved areas based on hypotheticals. I would encourage you to visit with Chris Fredericksen in the city office if you want more information.

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  21. I too agree about the changes. I’ve written letters and comments to the paper. Esp about trees, River area, and speed limits. Changing downtown and notify after the fact. We need to meet with the city council and park Dept to express our distaste at their renovation work including the ridiculous waterfall signs which the city spend s our hard earned money on as a combined effort

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  22. I am a long time resident of the Home Ranch Addition and have used South Boulevard for years as my route to and from work. For a time, I used Holmes but ceased using that route when they made changes to the lanes a few years back. I’ve seen a resulting increase in traffic that may be, in part, due to what they did to Holmes and I wish it would be changed back to what it was. Another point, Holmes once had an appearance similar to what South Boulevard is like today. If one is having trouble envisioning what South Boulevard might look like, just take drive down Holmes. There are several houses with the sidewalk at the front door. The archives in the Museum of Idaho have photographs of Holmes back in the 50s and 60s…yet another way of seeing how much it’s changed.

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  23. The “most loved places” in the world happen on narrow streets. Boulevard is wide enough. Re-stripe it like it was before and preserve the historic beauty of this section of the city. Traffic engineers often set aside the important elements that make an area beautiful, as they focus almost exclusively on the automobile. It’s time to insist on “balance”. I believe that the Public Works Division of Idaho Falls should include urban land planners who understand the pattern-principles of Traditional Neighborhood Design (TNDs) and New Urbanism.

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  24. I didn’t and don’t now live in Idaho Falls, but grew up nearby. It was the go-to town for many reasons and I’ve always loved to drive down that street and see the beautiful, grand homes on that beautiful tree lined street! What a crying shame it would be to destroy any of it!
    Is it possible to put the petition online so those of us unable to make it to you could sign it? Thank You for your caring and passion!

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  25. There has to be a way to get an official “Historic” status for the area. This would likely be something with regulations and rules to prevent changes to the area.

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  26. Do you have an online petition for those who can’t make it to your home and sign? Have you received signatures yet? I shared this on facebook and where people can sign the petition, etc. So hopefully that helps also spread the word.

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  27. Stop whining. The speed limit needs to go back to 35. Get rid of the bike path and center lane and go back to the way it was before Casper got her hands on it.

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  28. I grew up in Idaho Falls and I love Boulevard. The homes are beautiful and well maintained I moved away from Idaho Falls last year but this plan of Casper’s is unacceptable. She needs to start listening to what the residents want and forget about her grandiose plans to turn IF into Boise East.

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    1. Oh my. You need to leave some of what makes Idaho Falls, ldaho Falls. Boulevard is one of those things that needs to be left alone. It’s some joy that I don’t get on Holmes or Yellowstone.

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  29. All historic houses and streets should not be touched! Let’s keep all that is left of historic buildings and streets for generations to come !!
    This goes for every town in Idaho.!!

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  30. If it is the same engineers who did the ridicules exit from south I-15 on to Sunny side road PERHAPS new engineers need to be hired.

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