Did you guys see the Friday Idahos statesman? About the Flying Wye landscaping? (the link has pdf files that look better, I just had to take some screen shots for this post)
The state is ready to show the public how it wants to put the finishing touches on the Flying Wye Interchange.
The Flying Wye is the state's busiest intersection — the Interstate 84 and 184 interchange that connects the freeway with the Boise I-184 Connector to Downtown. The state spent five and a half years and $86 million rebuilding the confusing and congested interchange, and completed that work in June 2004.
The sometimes-bitter discussion over how to landscape around the interchange dates to the days of the Flying Wye's makeover. When then-Mayor Brent Coles proposed $11.4 million in landscaping for the Boise gateway in 2001, other local officials objected to spending so much money on acres of turf, 1,000 trees and 48,000 shrubs instead of area road improvements.
On Saturday, the Idaho Transportation Department unveils two landscape themes for the public to review and critique. Both plans — High Desert and Prairie — call for low-water and low-maintenance plants and no turf.
Both options call for native plants. The Prairie plan would feature fields of native grasses and wildflowers; the High Desert motif incorporates boulders and larger-scale plantings of shrubs and trees.
The designs also incorporate existing ponds that would function as stormwater-retention areas.
The goal is to "blend with the natural, social and cultural environment of the Treasure Valley," an ITD advisory committee said in 2004.
The Flying Wye gets its name from its Y-shaped layout. Boiseans started using the moniker shortly after the Connector opened in 1968, and the name stuck.
ITD will use public comment to help decide which of the themes to use for the final landscaping. The agency will hold another public meeting to unveil that final concept next year. Landscaping work won't begin until 2010.
Federal funds will pay for about 90 percent of ITD's landscaping bill. State money will cover the remaining costs.
The project pricetag is not final. ITD has set aside $6.9 million for the project, but that amount could change, said Gwen Smith, ITD public involvement coordinator. Smith said exact costs won't be determined until the concept is chosen and the design complete.
Once ITD finishes landscaping the Wye, it will pass the shovel to the city of Boise, which will be responsible for upkeep. Caring for 84 acres will take a sizable bite out of the city's parks and recreation maintenance budget, worries Mayor Dave Bieter.
"The mayor fully supports the idea of an attractive gateway, but we have stressed to ITD about what the long-term maintenance costs could be," said Bieter spokesman Michael Zuzel. "Our concern is that the interchange project could compete for maintenance dollars for parks — places where people can go and recreate as opposed to something they drive by at high speed."
Fancy landscaping is not a priority for Boiseans, said Zuzel. In a citizen survey conducted in June, one question asked people to rank priorities for parks and recreation. Right-of-way landscaping and maintenance ranked at the bottom of the list of things people want their tax money spent on. "Parks, youth programs and the Greenbelt ranked very high," said Zuzel,
Meridian resident Eric Schrader expressed the same view.
He commutes to Boise and drives the Wye several times a day. The Wye doesn't need to be a swanky welcome to Boise, Schrader said. The money should be used to build more parks or beautify other areas.
"I guess it's important that they finish it," Schrader said. "I would like to see some kind of landscaping, but to me it doesn't need to be extravagant. It's a Flying Wye, not a destination or a downtown."