KUNA — By 2022, Kuna will look like a newer, bigger town thanks to $10 million worth of construction to be performed by the Ada County Highway District.

Because of new business and a high rate of growth within the population, the highway district is looking at multiple projects to update the town’s infrastructure between 2018 and 2021.

According to Ada County Highway District spokesman Craig Quintana, the projects include a downtown revitalization project, which is expected to begin this spring. The projects do not include a railroad overpass the city and residents have been wanting for years.

DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION

Kuna Mayor Joe Stear said he is excited to finally have the city’s downtown revitalization project started in May because he believes it will help businesses downtown by attracting more foot traffic.

The revitalization was originally expected to begin in April, but the city ran into a few bumps in the plans.

“At first we didn’t have proper storm water drainage,” Stear said. “That put us off another month, month-and-a-half, because we came to an agreement with the (Kuna school district) to use the corner on Avenue E and Main Street. That required a little change and design after being authorized by the school district.”

Stear said the city will break ground in early May for phase one of the project. Phase one will run from Avenue E to Avenue C, near the Kuna Post Office, and will include new streetlights, new sidewalks, better drainage and more parking. After the first phase of the project is completed, construction on Main Street will begin from Avenue C to Linder Road connecting the new roundabout.

In May 2016, the city stated the full cost of the plan was estimated at $2.14 million. A lot of the funding for the project came from grants, including a $500,000 grant from the Ada County Highway District. In February, the Kuna City Council decided to spend an additional $141,000 to make up for a shortfall identified in the budget for the project after city documents showed the actual estimate falls just below the $2.38 million price tag estimated by the city’s hired engineers.

Stear said that since February the city was able to get additional outside funding, such as grants, and was able to reduce the money allocated for the project to less than $50,000. A design committee made up of city employees and business owners chose the exact lampposts, benches, sidewalk design and more.

Main Street in Kuna is going through a transition phase with older business, such as True Value, closing down and new businesses opening up on Meridian Road. Stear said he hopes the project will bring more foot traffic to downtown and will attract new business owners.

Stear said the project started years ago when the Ada County Highway District performed a study on Kuna’s downtown and it showed many issues with the downtown streets.

“The streets were put in the ‘80s,” Stear said. “The sidewalks were being lifted by trees. The road has been resurfaced several times. It was just something that needed an update and as long as we could get grant funding to pay for the bulk of it, we decided to get it going. The main purpose is to make it more attractive, get better foot traffic yet still keep the downtown charm.”

During the construction, downtown customers may find a hard time parking or entering storefronts on Main Street. Stear said he is working to try to lower the impact of the construction as much as possible.

“Because they are tearing out the streets and sidewalks, there will be an impact,” Stear said. “We are working with all the businesses so we don’t interrupt their busiest days of the week. We are communicating with the businesses to keep access for them.”

The downtown revitalization project is expected to take three months to complete, and the goal is to have the project finished by the 2017 Kuna Days in August.

“We would like to have an unveiling for Kuna Days,” Stear said. “But if not, we will do it like the old days and have the parade on a dirt path.”

FUTURE UPDATES TO THE CITY

Quintana said there is a laundry list of projects that have been approved by the Ada County Highway District commissioners that will help expand and improve Kuna infrastructure to keep up with the city’s quickly growing population.

The projects include:

  • A new roundabout at Ten Mile Road and Amity Road in 2021. The project will cost $1.5 million.
  • The Kuna Road bridge, over the Benton Lateral, will be rebuilt in 2021. The project will cost $487,000.
  • A new, interim traffic signal will be installed on Meridian Road and Lake Hazel Road in 2021. In the future the full intersection will be rebuilt, but a date has not been set. The interim traffic signal will cost $138,000.
  • A new, interim traffic signal will be installed on Meridian Road and Hubbard Road in 2021. In the future the full intersection will be rebuilt and expanded. The interim traffic signal will cost $139,000.
  • The intersection of Linder Road and Deer Flat Road will be fully rebuilt in 2020. This will include widening the curbs, gutters and bike lanes. It will cost $3.31 million.
  • Linder Road from Main Street to Deer Flat Road will be revamped with expanded curbs, gutters, sidewalks and bike lanes. The road will also get new pavement and a pedestrian crossing. The project is set for 2021 and will cost $1.5 million.
  • A new pedestrian crossing and a deceleration lane will be constructed on Deer Flat Road in front of Kuna High School in 2020. The cost is $425,000.
  • This year the Fourth Street bridge, over the Teed Lateral, is being rebuilt. This will include new sidewalk on the north side of Fourth Street and a right turn lane on Fourth Street and Kay Avenue. The cost of the project is $470,000.
  • The Locust Grove bridge over Indian Creek will be rebuilt this year. The project will cost $321,000
  • Stroebel Road bridge over Indian Creek is being rebuilt. The project costs $382,000.
  • The Black Cat Road and the Union Pacific railroad crossing will be updated with warning lights and a gate. The project will cost $425,000.
  • The Linder Road and Union Pacific railroad crossing will be updated with warning lights and a gate. The project will cost $525,000.

“Bridges and intersections are indicators of growth,” Quintana said. “What used to be OK back in the rural days is no longer OK. So you have to take out four-way stops to put in a signal. Bridges have to be wider to accommodate more traffic and different kinds of traffic.”

Without including maintenance projects, and including the downtown revitalization, Quintana said the Ada County Highway District will spend about $10 million between 2017 and 2021 in just Kuna.

“That’s what we are planning on spending at this point,” Quintana said. “Everything we do costs a lot of money. Even a mile of sidewalk is a big chunk of change.”

NO OVERPASS IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE

Quintana said there is no planned date or time to build a railroad overpass in Kuna, despite the need for one. Kuna residents have asked the city and district for an overpass in past surveys and public meetings because the trains have started to cause long lines of backed-up traffic, and residents who live on the south side of the train tracks may have limited access to emergency services if police, firefighters or an ambulance is stuck waiting for a train to pass.

The two major crossings of the railroad are on Linder Road and Avalon Street.

In 2014, the Ada County Highway District conducted a study in partnership with the city of Kuna to find out where an overpass may be built.

“The bottom line of the study was we needed to find $15.5 million to $18.8 million to fund it,” Quintana said. “Often when a project is this big we look for federal funding. In recent years the federal money has been in short supply.”

According to the 2014 feasibility study, the city of Kuna has placed an overpass to be built on Linder Road in the city’s comprehensive plan. The city and highway district are hoping either more federal funding will become available soon or to wait to see if the tax base in Kuna will grow.

“Without federal funding, we could bond for the overpass,” Stear said. “But bonds such as that do not bode well with our residents.”

Quintana said the city is hoping the area near Linder Road and Swan Falls Road will become more economically active with more businesses and a future local improvement district or a small taxing area.

“They see it as a future economic hotbed,” Quintana said.

According to the feasibility study, the Ada County Highway District and the city of Kuna made agreements with each other to keep the plan active until funding has become available. The agreement outlined:

  • The highway district will keep monitoring traffic data in the area
  • The highway district will explore alternative funding sources for the project
  • The city will adopt the plan into the comprehensive plan
  • The city will make amendment to city code to ensure development of the project
  • The city will be responsible for finding funding for the project.

Quintana said he hopes more federal funding will become available for projects such as the overpass.

“This new president says he’s all about supporting infrastructure,” Quintana said. “So let’s hope the federal funding pool opens up.”

Danielle Wiley is the reporter for the Kuna Melba News. Contact her at 922-3008 or email her at editor@kunamelba.com

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