Avimor Highway Access Problems?

Attend a public hearing for a proposed real estate development and you will likely hear the developer ask the regulatory authority to waive many of the codes, rules, and regulations pertaining to such projects.

When an agency like Ada County or Idaho Transportation Department yields to such requests, a developer gets a good deal, and we suffer, just a little. The air gets a little dirtier, water is a little more polluted, traffic increases. Your taxes go up by a couple of dollars and the changes are subtle as the movement of a glacier, but just as cold.

Such was the case with Avimor, the planed community on Highway 55 north of Boise. According to the rules, the developer was required to present a detailed design of entry roads, and have them approved by ITD, BEFORE the county accepted Avimor’s application as complete and BEFORE the commissioners deliberated the merits of the project.

Instead of enforcing their own rules, Ada County approved the application with the condition Avimor get ITD’s approval to access to busy Highway 55 BEFORE construction would be allowed.

Public records indicate Avimor began work prior to submitting designs and without approval from ITD for several of their access points. It is now two years since Ada County granted conditional approval of the Avimor application. No final access design has been received or approved by the State or County .

ITD granted Avimor approval of four TEMPORARY access points. All the access points were granted to allow Avimor to get construction equipment and material onto or away from the site.

Only one of the four access points, the southern most one on the east side of the road, required Avimor to widen the road and install turn and acceleration / deceleration lanes. Further, and very importantly, there is no provision for Avimor to routinely move equipment and material from one side of Highway 55 to the other side as an ongoing part of the construction process. Trucks are constantly crossing the highway on a daily basis with no flagger, traffic control devices, or safety lanes.

So it was on Friday, August 8, 2007, that a tank truck pulled out of an unauthorized fifth access point (ITD deems it an “Agricultural” Access Point) on the west side of Highway 55, about a mile north of Avimor’s northernmost proper entry point, and headed south with a load of water destined for the construction site on the East side of the road.

The tank truck attempted to turn at the northern entry where there is no turn lane. In the process of waiting for a gap in the oncoming stream of traffic, the tanker completely blocked southbound traffic and was struck by a car. Both occupants died.

The two motorists might still be alive had they been more alert. However, had ITD and Ada County enforced their own rules and regulations there would not have been a tank truck parked in the middle of a highway.

Current casualty toll associated with the Avimor Project: 2 traffic deaths, at least 1 serious non-traffic injury

NOTE– Check out what the GUARDIAN PUBLISHED in December 2006 on this mess.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. costaprettypenny
    Sep 10, 2007, 9:50 pm

    Before you jump to too many “what if’s” the special provisions, that are part of the ITD access permit need to be published! ITD has addressed most of issues that you mentioned into the permitting of Avimor’s application. The problem is that it has taken them way too long to figure out who in the agency has the “final” word, the district or Hdqts. There is an inordinate amount “who’s in charge” as it relates to the development issues here in Ada County. That needs to change real soon, they need to be a partner with ACHD in addressing the adequate public facilities issues.

  2. Grumpy ole guy
    Sep 10, 2007, 9:54 pm

    Question, do conditional use permits contain a date or time specific sun-set clause? Or may a conditional use permit last “forever”?

    Question #2, who is responsible for enforecement of conditional use permits? The agency which issues them; or, the law enforcement unit of the agency. Leading naturally to question #3. If the appropriate law enforcement agency is to enforce the terms of a conditional use permit, how are they notified of the terms of that permit.

    Leanding, as if inevitable, to question #4, 5 and etc.. Who and how are conditional use permits monitored; are the stipulations of such permits made available to the public, and, if so, by what means is this information given to the citizens, where is it published? Since Federal, State and Local government codes and statutes are publically available (if only electronically in some cases) how do these additional regulations become available to the public (where do we go to find the terms of such permits)?

    Oh, thanks for any answers anyone can provide.

    Grumpy by choice.

  3. First poster mentions, ACHD, I don’t think ACHD has anything to do with Hwy 55. It’s a state highway, therefore DOT is in charge. I’ve been trying to get BG to do an expose on Idaho DOT for over a year now. DOT is full to the brim with ineptitude.

    Didn’t Gov. Risch replace the director, so what has changed? The people would like to know.

    Back to state highways, since I’ve lived in Idaho I’ve seen one state highway after another rendered almost useless by mismanaged development. Hwy 75 from Bellevue to Ketchum is one fine example of ineptitude. US 95 from Coeur d’Alene to Sandpoint is another. Forget about discussing the Sand Creek bypass.

    Hey Idaho, ever hear of limited access highways?

  4. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Tenor
    Sep 11, 2007, 8:29 am

    Some months back, I attended and testified a P&Z Meeting regarding the monstrosity planned for Harris Ranch. To my knowledge, I was the ONLY Private Citizen who testified (To Wit: “The Transportation Plan is Naive, and Woefully Inadequate”, and with regards to the statistics presented by the developer: “Mark Twain once said there are 3 kinds of lies in this world… ‘Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”).

    And from what I could see, the ONLY Private Citizen even in attendance.

    Ronald Reagan restated it best. “We the People… We ARE America”.

    Patriotism is NOT driving around with a plastic American Flag (made in Communist China!) on your car after we’re attacked.

    It’s dogging your elected officials, and dragging your “Cheerful Donkey” to the poles on Election Day.

  5. The culture and purpose of ITD took a nosedive back when former Governor Dirky Kempthorne and his construction industry buddy and former staffer Phil Reberger concocted the Garvee Bond scheme, which was meant to line the pockets of the construction industry without resulting in any real road building at all.

    ITD does not build roads anymore. It’s hard to say what it does.

  6. My, Grumpy Ole Guy had a lot of questions (good ones).
    I have only one:
    Why do Boise, Ada County etc. even have codes, rules, and regulations, when they’ll waive them for any developer who has (or sounds like he might eventually have; witness The Hole) a lot of money?

  7. Clippityclop
    Sep 11, 2007, 5:39 pm

    Neither Ada County Development Services nor ITD seem to want to take a leadership role and protect public safety. I find that avoidance of responsibility to all citizens who travel SH 55 absolutely appalling.

    This issue will come before the Ada County Commissioners at the end of the month when they take up the preliminary plat application for Avimor Phases 2-6. I can only hope that they will have the good judgment to realize that a horrible precedent is being set here. If they don’t, they should no longer be in office and thankfully, at least two of them will be coming up for re-election next year. The public can simply no longer tolerate this kind of disregard for the welfare of the community to satisfy a developer. This is well beyond a property rights issue — this is public health and safety and frankly, it’s being sacrificed. Shameful. We deserve better from all agencies involved, and the Commissioners.

  8. Add to Boisecynic’s question about why ITD has never heard of limited access roads…have they never heard of frontage roads as a way to move local traffic towards those points of limited access? Why are frontage roads unknown in this area? They do work!

    Also, I’ll never forget the inadvertently humorous Idaho Statesman article about why ITD can’t (!!!) synchronize traffic lights along Eagle Rd/Hwy 55 so that, if a motorist drives at the speed limit, s/he will hit all green lights. Other DOT’s throughout the country have been able to do it in jurisdictions with a whole lot more traffic than the Treasure Valley. Maybe ITD truly is as inept as earlier posts here are saying. On second, thought, looking at the carnage and destruction of Hwy 55 NORTH of Eagle/Boise under their watch…there ain’t no “maybe” about it.

  9. M Murphy makes a good point about the lack of public involvement at the city hearing on Harris Ranch.

    He should feel lucky. The city at least holds hearings.

    When the county makes highway issues a post approval condition to be resolved between ITD and the developer, the public is completely shut out of the process. Neither the County nor ITD makes any provision for public involvement in those matters.

    For the Ada County Commissioners, it is hard to tell the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship.

  10. costaprettypenny
    Sep 11, 2007, 10:24 pm

    Grumpy by choice.
    Question, do conditional use permits (Access Permits) contain a date or time specific sun-set clause? Or may a conditional use permit last “forever”?

    (Good question, an access permit is just that, a permit. It can be revoked at any time the standards of the permit are not adhered too. The permit may last forever if the conditions of the permit are maintained. Remember though, a permit is not a property right, it is a permit and there is a world of difference between the two.)

    Question #2, who is responsible for enforcement of conditional use permits? The agency which issues them; or, the law enforcement unit of the agency. Leading naturally to question #3. If the appropriate law enforcement agency is to enforce the terms of a conditional use permit, how are they notified of the terms of that permit.

    (You answered your own question, the agency that issued the permit. Public agencies have police powers to enforce the provisions of the permits. The use of a law enforcement agency like a county Sherriff or the State Police is not appropriate, the agencies have many administrative tools to address non-conformity.)

    Lending, as if inevitable, to question #4, 5 and etc.. Who and how are conditional use permits monitored; are the stipulations of such permits made available to the public, and, if so, by what means is this information given to the citizens, where is it published? Since Federal, State and Local government codes and statutes are publicly available (if only electronically in some cases) how do these additional regulations become available to the public (where do we go to find the terms of such permits)?

    (The issuing agency, as a normal course of business monitors permits, whether it is a county code enforcement officer, a highway district or state highway maintenance employee. The language in the various conditional use permits or the access permits are available to most everyone. The only ones that are not are those that are in the process of being drafted by the applicant in conjunction with the permitting agency. If you have a question, pick up the phone and call the agency.)

    (Hope that helps)

  11. Grumpy ole guy
    Sep 11, 2007, 11:23 pm

    Thanks to Sleuth for the answers to my questions. I appreciate knowing and learning; but, it really does raise some more either questions or worries. If the agency issuing the permit is in charge of enforcing said permits I suppose that they have code enforcers who make routine checks. I’ll also assume that the enforcement staff if limited in number and doesn’t make a ‘regular’ check on the compliance with the permits and suppose, further, that we citizens should call what we think of as questionalble practices to the attention of the agency. Is that correct? Anyone know?

    I can see that in big projects such as road ones there would be an assumption of permits being issued, but how does one learn if such permits are conditional or not?

    In a small project how does one learn if a permit has even been issued? I assume that such permits are on file, somewhere. So, if someone wants to relocate their driveway, as an example, do they apply to the ACHD, to the City, does one’s neighborhood Association have any say or sway, guess I’m just in a questionable mood these days.

  12. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Tenor
    Sep 12, 2007, 11:02 am

    I don’t feel lucky. I feel rightfully empowered (…endowed by my [sic] Creator…). If you are not so empowered, work to throw the bums out and change the status quo before the feces REALLY starts to hit the oscillator.

  13. curious george
    Sep 12, 2007, 12:32 pm

    Grumpy (Sneezy, Doc, and anyone else out there),

    In Ada County any construction in an ACHD-owned right-of-way requires a permit – and that construction has to be built to the district’s standards. If the applicant is going to hire someone to do the construction work, the district requires that the contractor be certified by the district to work in the right-of-way.

    As to who has jurisdiction over work on your property (setting building permit issues aside) – it depends on where you live. In subdivisions with CC&R’s, it’s the active homeowners association that has to review the plans; In other subdivisions, it’s the land use jurisdiction (either the city or the county); In Boise, some types of construction (usually large projects that require a separate land use application to be filed) the applicable Neighborhood Association and all property owners within 300-feet of the subject parcel have to be notified of the applicant’s “pre-application neighborhood meeting” (which must be held at least two-weeks before the applicant submits his/her application).

    As to the subject of the article, ITD is the controlling jurisdiction for Highway 55. All the county (or any city processing a land use application) can do is rely upon ITD to enforce its own rules, accurately interpret those rules, and communicate any concerns to the county (or city) about any proposed development.

    Neither a county nor city can prevent (or grant) access to a state highway – or “condition” any access that may be granted by ITD.

    Accordingly, there is no law (rule, policy, or regulation) in any jurisdiction in Idaho that requires a land use applicant to secure access approval from ITD (or local highway district) BEFORE a land use application is submitted for consideration by the deliberating body. If the county (or any city) where to declare a land use application “incomplete” because it didn’t contain an access agreement with ITD or a local highway district (for a development that the public hasn’t yet had an opportunity to review) – it will have forced the landowner into a Catch-22, and denied the landowner due process.

    I understand that SunCor, Avimor’s developer, asked ITD to allow it to construct a middle turn lane, to place flaggers on the road way, to erect warning signage (or flashers, or lights) – and each request was denied by ITD.

    I’m not sure how a land use jurisdiction can “force” an independent state agency to do its job differently. And it looks like the county “conditioned” its rezone & plat of the Avimor project requiring the developer to successfully resolve any access issues – “issues” (if they exist) for which the county is legally prohibited from enforcing, interpreting, or modifying.

    As such, the condition is equivalent to adding a requirement that the developer “must obey all applicable laws and regulations” – yet the county has no police powers to enforce any laws or regulations that rest under the authority of ITD. If the county were to receive an official response from ITD that the developer has failed to adhere to its rules (as it interprets them) – then the county could suspend development activity on the site until ITD transmits a document that states that the developer has come into compliance.

    For local roads in Ada County, the ACHD has final plat-signing authority – giving it a very big hammer to force development to meet its access, design, and connectivity standards. ITD doesn’t have this authority – nor would I think the state legislature grant it this power. But, although it cannot deny a property owner his/her right to at least one access point onto a state highway (if no other local street access is available), it does have the power to control how that access is taken.

    If any county official were to deny an application because s/he didn’t “trust” the state to do its job to protect the public’s health, welfare, and safety on the state’s facility – all I see is a big lawsuit that the county (that is you, me and our wallet) will loose.

    ITD has to step up to the plate and do a more thorough job in its reviews of projects, and in the development and implementation of access control standards on its facilities – no one else can do its job for it.

    Now I’m grumpy…

  14. Clippityclop
    Sep 12, 2007, 5:07 pm

    Meanwhile, George, while neither ITD nor ACDS assumes any leadership, SH 55 is unsafe and 2 people are already dead. The threat of a suit brought against the County by a disgruntled developer pales in comparison, and if the Commissioners hide behind this, they have no business being in that office. Same goes for ITD. Public safety trumps developer profits and property rights, period. Your justification for the County failing to act is inexcusable, regardless of ITD’s stance. Face it, the public has had it with these types of excuses, and it’s the public that is being sacrificed, literally.

  15. John Mitchell
    Sep 12, 2007, 7:02 pm

    I would urge everyone to start a letter writing campaign and protest the abysmal turnout lanes that ITD has allowed. I would also forward a copy
    to the County Commisioners—ask them how they sleep at night knowlingly jepordizing the safety of one of our state’s busiest highways………hopefully Avimor won’t turn into Forevermor….

  16. Excellent suggestion, John, particularly as the U if I is back in session and many kids will be travelling that highway on a regular basis. (By the way, only 1 access point has a center turn lane — the rest, you have to stop dead in the middle of the highway if you’re southbound and want to turn left.)

    Here’s some handy addresses:

    Pamela Lowe, Director
    Idaho Transportation Department
    P.O. Box 8028
    Boise, ID 83707-2028

    Ada County Commissioners (Tilman, Yzaguirre and Woods)
    200 W. Front Street
    Boise, ID 83702

  17. curious george
    Sep 12, 2007, 8:18 pm


    Why would you think a land use jurisdiction would be liable for damages stemming from a collision on a state highway?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the death of two people on a state highway is an unacceptable tragedy- but a land use jurisdiction has no control over the activities of anyone on a roadway. If I were in the family of the victims I would be exploring every legal option, but the county’s actionable exposure is non-existent. ITD, the contractor, the truck driver, and the developer, all have some level of exposure – and probably in that order. Even their percentage of risk is fairly minimal, given that it was the driver of the car who caused the accident.

    As I understand it, the truck driver released her brakes to begin rolling forward when she saw the car approaching to give the driver more room to stop – but there weren’t even skid marks on the road. I imagine the incident investigator will conclude that it was the car driver’s inattentiveness that caused the accident.

    I understand the desire to find a culprit, and it doesn’t help a growthaphobe’s cause to pin guilt on a dead guy. But if you’re looking for someone to roast, scratch under the surface of the near-impenetrable bureaucracy at ITD. Why did they refuse to allow construction flaggers and other measures to be used on the roadway? And, if ITD shouldn’t be allowing the use of the existing access points onto the highway for construction activity (by its own rules) – who’s the idgit at ITD who said it was okay. And if it isn’t okay, why isn’t ITD exercising its police powers to enforce its rules.

    As tragic as all this is, the over-arching question is what will ITD require the developer to put into place to solve access onto the site before they start selling homes? I’m pretty sure that the county hasn’t been told, or the developer. All the Great State of Ada can do, and has done, is require that the developer do what the State of Idaho requires.

    CURIOUS GEORGE–We agree with you pretty much across the board, but a couple points:

    1–Antilock brakes pretty much eliminate skid marks.

    2–Had Ada County reserved approval until highway access and construction issues were met–rather than as a “condition”– no truck would have ev en been there.

    3–See the story linked at the end of the post…ITD didn’t like the situation then. Something obviously changed.

    We talked casually with ITD source today and got the impression the previously mandated overpass is now an “option.” There is even talk of widening the highway in that area.

  18. George,

    The county may use the fear of a lawsuit by ITD as an excuse for giving away the farm, but it is just that, an excuse.

    The county regularly violates the state land use planning act by ignoring subdivision’s effects on wildlife, and failing to direct development toward cities. They don’t even ask Water Resource’s or DEQ’s opinions on water availability or the affect of run off. If the state has ever sued a county for such actions, it was a long time ago, and it doesn’t happen often. If anyone sues them, it is the general public. Enforcing state law at the county level is rarely on the AG’s agenda.

    Conversely, lower jurisdictions are almost always allowed to impose stricter requirements than those imposed by higher jurisdictions. Witness the case last summer when Meridian, of all the unlikely cities, told ACHD to stuff it when ACHD approved one more disaster on Eagle Road. To date, ACHD remains stuffed.

  19. Clippityclop
    Sep 13, 2007, 8:40 am


    I find your blanket of legal excuses for ACDS hollow and I couldn’t agree more with the Guardian’s notes below your post. For the love of God, ACDS and the Commissioners should quit spending energy on avoiding “liability” (you used that term, I didn’t) and show some leadership by addressing the situation. If the concern is that ITD won’t step up to the plate, then they shouldn’t hesitate to do the right thing whether or not some developer threatens to sue them. Standing up for public safety is a pretty good justification for taking action. Not standing up for public safety is a pretty good reason for leaving office.

    My take? Somebody, probably a combination of ACDS and the developer, put huge pressure on ITD to change their stance of last January. ITD will likely claim that nothing has changed, but it clearly has. My guess is that somebody pressured the Board and the rest of the staff had to play ball. Well, this is what you get. Who’s to blame isn’t the point here, my friend. Something needs to be done. Would you still be do defensive if that were your son or daughter killed on the highway? No one expects to find a construction vehicle stopped in the middle of 60 mph highway with no turn lane… it’s a simply a very bad situation which cannot persist or be allowed to recur. Proper infrastructure needs to be in place, period.

  20. curious george
    Sep 13, 2007, 8:51 am

    Who said the county should be fearing a lawsuit from the state (ITD)? I didn’t.

    I repeat, the only group who’s exposed to a potential lawsuit on these issues (the traffic accident, and the allowance of construction traffic on a state highway without adequate safety measures) is ITD. And then, its exposure is determined by whether it followed its own rules.

    The county would only be violating the law (and therefor subject to a lawsuit) IF it required an answer to road access questions posed by a proposed development BEFORE the public has a chance to review & testify on the development. And then, the lawsuit would be filed by (and won by) the citizen/taxpayer/landowner who was denied due process. The county has no authority over roadways (local or state).

    No one can force the public (via ITD, or a local highway district) to expend critical resources reviewing every hypothetical problem that may arise from a potential development on privately-owned property BEFORE the general public (via its land use regulatory body) even has a chance to review (and perhaps deny) that development.

    The notion that a “solution” to a question (arrived upon by the public, via one public agency) must be presented before the question can even be asked of the public (via another public agency) is absurd.

    No solution has to be offered if a development is denied (and denial must always be considered as a viable option during a land use hearing). Why does it make sense to some that we should expend taxpayer resources to seek a solution – to a question that may never get asked?

    Let the landowner seek his/her entitlement (especially on a rezone, such as a PC, for which there is no “given” expectation). Let the deciding body (in this case, the county) stipulate that the developer MUST get all the proper permits before availing themselves of any public facility outside of the control of the county. Then, let the the agency responsible for granting those permits excercise its regulatory powers in stipulating how (when & where – or even if) such public facility may be used by the developer.

    Then, and only then, is the entire risk borne by the developer. Then, and only then, will the public have a chance to review the proposed development (and properly consider rejecting the proposal) before it must expend resources to consider how to mitigate the effect of an approved development.

    The developer will always be paying for the time necessary to review any application (whether its a land use application, or an access permit). But the critical public resource I’m speaking of (which should never be wasted on a finding a solution to a problem that may never occur) is the time required of a limited number of public employees who must review those applications.

    True, the developer (or the developer’s engineers) will be doing the majority of the grunt work in exploring options – but the ultimate power to weigh those options (and perhaps reject all options the developer presents) rests with the public (via its trained staff employed by the appropriate public agency).

    In answer to eStreet’s Meridian scenario, ACHD didn’t “approve” a development – it only found that the developer’s proposal posed no risk to the roadway system. Meridian rejected the development, as is its right as the land use regulatory body (even given that the development may not have had a negative effect on the roadway).

    Boise City found out very quickly that when ACHD needed to expand Ustick to solve what the highway district believed to be a danger to the public’s health, welfare and safety – that the city had no say in the matter. The firewalled seperation of powers goes both ways.

    The public (or one public agency) may not like what another public agency decides is best within its jurisdiction – but to prove that a crime occured someone has to show how the errant agency violated its own rules.

    In this case, the only potential violation may be how ITD has failed to protect the public (did it succumb to outside pressure at the expense of the public’s safety?). The county, for its part, appears to have done everything it can to require the developer to comply with the same rules that apply to everyone else.

  21. Curious George.

    I find it laughable that you believe ACHD found Ustick to be a danger to the public’s health, welfare and safety. No such finding was ever made. In fact, no finding of the necessity for widening Ustick was ever made. This was a lousy unilateral decision by a corrupt government organization which has never met a bad decision they’ve ever reconsidered.

    Ustick was originally supposed to be a $6 million project. The actual cost, which ACHD will never publish, will be over $20 million.

    One of the major reasons why our transportation systems here in Ada County are so awful is that ACHD can’t get along with ITD (there’s a total surprise ACHD not getting along with others). The two should be working together instead of saying, this is their road and we don’t care.

  22. I agree with Sleuth’s earlier comment – why are there no frontage roads along Eagle Road or any other State highway? When I lived in N. California many years ago the freeway had very few access points. The traffic was lousy anyway but at least there weren’t numerous traffic signals. Eagle Road is getting really scary with the speed limits allowed. Start, stop, start, stop. It is nerve wracking. I refuse to go to any business located on Eagle Road.

    Having just returned from a trip to N.E. Oregon, I have to comment that the difference between the roads there and in Idaho are like day and night. Even two lane roads to the back country are sufficiently wide, have many turnouts and have barriers to prevent cars from leaving the roadway and tumbling down into a canyon. The gas prices are similar to here, they have no sales tax, but still they are able to build and maintain good roads. Perhaps the leadership at ITD should make a trip to Oregon to see how they manage their work. Makes one wonder where our tax dollars are going.

  23. Clippityclop
    Sep 13, 2007, 12:33 pm

    Your legal reasoning is lacking, but establishing liability is not the important point here. Public safety is, and something must be done to safeguard it. Either ITD or the County Commissioners need to step up to the plate — I don’t give a rip which and neither does the public.

    ITD may or may not do the right thing, I can’t predict. They certainly seem to have lost the resolve they had in January. Failing to be a leader, however, will be disasterous for the Commission. Lookit, you all can fight about and assign blame later, that’s not my concern, but right now, a fatally dangerous situation exists and should not be perpetuated. End of story and nobody is interested in your justifications for inaction by any involved agency or the Commission.

  24. As anyone who watched the OJ saga unfold knows, there is a huge difference between criminal liability and civil liability.

    In this case, there may or may not be criminal liability. The fact that charges have not been filed tends to make the criminal issue moot.

    As for civil liability, things are very different. On one side, you have four orphans, and two dead parents. By my estimation, they could seek damages in excess of $50 million.

    On the deep pocket side of the equation you have a $billion corporation and two bottomless pocket state and county agencies.

    A cursory look at the record shows Avimor continually acting without proper permits, and ITD and Ada County generally turning a blind eye, or simply rubber stamping Avimor’s activities. On the day of the accident, the truck, without question, was coming from an unauthorized access point and was stopped in the middle of the road in an effort to turn into a access point that could have been constructed to higher standards (such as the one further south).

    The automobile driver deserves some of the blame. However, a jury could easily determine that there was contributory negligence on the part of Avimor, ITD, and Ada County for not doing more to prevent accidents such as this.

    It doesn’t take much of a shark to smell that sort of blood in the water. And, it’s my guess that most juries would want to help the orphans.

    It would be so much easier, for the public, the county, and the state, even for Avimor, if all the agencies did their job, and enforced their own rules and regulations. If it takes a $50 million settlement to remind the Governor, the head of ITD, and three county commissioners to protect their constituents, it will be money well spent.

    What it won’t do is bring back the lives of the parents.

  25. curious george
    Sep 13, 2007, 4:09 pm

    Ahh, it’s always nice being the bearer of bad news. I’ll be the first one to declare that reality sucks!

    Clippity, you SHOULD care where you place blame, since establishing liability (i.e., “risk” – either perceived, or actual) is the only real way of getting the leaders of a recalcitrant public agency to move in the right direction. It may not be as pleasant as hoping that they will simply wake up and “do the right thing” – but it is more realistic.

    And since highway 55 is completely under the authority of ITD – managing the risk on that roadway rests with ITD. Going after a land use agency for the risky behavior being conducted on a state highway – even if the behavior is being caused by the contractor building a development that the agency approved – isn’t going to change anything at ITD. Nor will it change anything at the county. County leaders know better than anyone else who is responsible for the public’s welfare on the state highway system. They will listen patiently, and respectfully, to the public’s concern about unsafe roads during land use hearings – probably whole-heartedly agree with all the criticism, and if the public’s lucky they will direct their staff to forward those comments to ITD or ACHD, knowing that the county has no control over roadway safety.

    I’m not interested in perpetuating a system that may be broken. Nor should anyone.

    If you want real, significant, and immediate change – bring this flaming bag of dog poop directly to ITD’s front door and ring the bell. Bringing your roadway complaints to Ada County is like complaining to the postman that your medical bills are too high. He may deliver the bills, but he can’t do a thing about your healthcare situation – if he’s in a friendly mood he may sympathize with your situation, and then delicately tell you that you should take the issue up with your doctor.

    Sara, I didn’t say I agreed with ACHD’s assessment about Ustick – but the court did agree that ACHD has sole authority over the roadway, and confirmed its primal role in determining what should be done to protect the traveling public. The court forced Boise to back off. This is not an opinion; it is what happened (BTW, I do not agree with the court).

    Treva’s right about Oregon’s roads – this is a direct result of Oregon’s Urban Growth Boundaries land use law and its transportation & land use planning concurrency. If we could secure the same level of growth management in the Treasure Valley we’d be way better off than we are today. The only effort that could bring this about is the Blueprint for Good Growth, check it out.

    Also note that the two major contributors to the effort are Ada County and ACHD. ITD even agreed to play ball and signed the intergovernmental agreement. We all just have to make sure that they stick to their word.

  26. Clippityclop
    Sep 13, 2007, 5:05 pm

    That “recalcitrant public agency” you refer to also applies to the County. Put the shovel down before you dig yourself any deeper. You’re not doing the County a favor, and you’re not helping to solve the immediate crisis. Hopefully, the Commissioners will have more horse sense.

  27. The Suncor group is teaming up with the Tamarack group for a reason….somebody has bought Idaho politicians and needs some favors called in on a failing project. Then the Suncor group can give Tamarack some cash so they can pay their bills….

  28. curious george
    Sep 13, 2007, 11:26 pm


    I wrote “public agency” and not ITD (ACHD, Ada County, or any of the cities) because you’re right – the sentence applies equally to all of them.

    It’s not lost on me that the most strident voices speaking out about the county’s responsibility in this situation, just can’t seem to get over their disappointment that the county approved the develoment in the first place. They should stop confusing their loss with the loss experienced by the victims, it’s beneath them and it’s not doing anything to help the situation.

    Although this blog prides itself on its slant, look at the situation objectively.

    ITD is the only agency that has jurisdiction over the highway – and the existing access point (that Tony Jones correctly stated) from which the construction vehicle entered the roadway, isn’t even in Ada County. This is why the state has such complete and total jurisdiction over the highway – and why it must never be released from its primary responsibility in this matter.

    ITD can enforce its rules unilaterally (anywhere along the hundreds of miles of highways in its jurisdiction), whereas Ada County’s authority ends at the countyline and does not extend onto the highway’s right-of-way. Wishing that the county hadn’t approved the development, or trying to prove that the county is culpable for the collision, isn’t going to improve the safety on the roadway.

    All I’ve seen indicates that the county required the developer to seek the appropriate approvals from ITD. If the developer is using the highway without the proper approvals, then why is ITD allowing it to do so? And why isn’t ITD publically pointing the finger at Ada County, if it feels that the county has some culpability in the matter?

    I used to work for a state agency (not ITD, thank God!), and if there’s any blame to spread around I can guarantee you that a couple of Deputy AG’s would be publicly duking it out right now with the county’s prosecuting attorney. There is no such thing as brothers in arms in such a situation.

    ITD, though, appears to have left a strew of conflicting letters on the access & safety issue. And, from all accounts it appears to be fully aware that slow-moving construction vehicles are using its highway as a construction route – yet why is it permitting this without requiring flaggers (even denying the developer’s request to use flaggers, and add a middle turn lane)?

    If I didn’t know better, I would think ITD is trying to “punish” the county for its approval of the development – even if it’s the traveling public that is paying the ultimate price.

  29. Clippityclop
    Sep 14, 2007, 8:15 am

    Heaven’s George, if only the County put as much effort into ensuring completeness and safety (I point out here that public welfare is a central concern in the Land Use Planning Act)when approving development applications as you do into defending the County and pinning this mess on ITD, we would not be in this dangerous situation. The “disappointment” of which you speak is disappointment that the neither the County nor ITD upheld the welfare of the public. I can only pray that the Commissioners have the concern now to do the right thing, if ITD does not. I have no idea what ITD plans to do. As for the AG’s office, you are mistaken in your zeal, but all of that,and the blame game, are beside the point. Something needs to be done now. None of your posturing changes any of that. It would be absolutely wonderful if the County and ITD chose to work together to resolve this issue, that would be very Blueprint-hearted, but I’m afraid you have just destroyed any kind or working relationship the County has with ITD by hanging them out to dry. Once again, put the shovel down. Wouldn’t it be a welcome relief if you worked on a solution rather than establishing culpability? That’s what I care about.

  30. Curious seems to be working extremely hard to avoid the obvious point that if the county stops the project, the misuse of the highway by construction equipment also stops.

    By refusing to use that authority when it knows a problem exists, the county gets a share of the responsibility when accidents occur.

  31. curious george
    Sep 15, 2007, 3:28 pm


    You prove the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

    If, and only if, you want the situation on highway 55 to improve – follow my recommendation to focus your efforts on getting ITD to clean up its act. If you don’t really care about the public’s health, welfare, and safety – continue your shotgun approach to blaming the county and ITD. In my experience, local elected leaders just love to hear that they’re to blame for another agency’s malfeasence & ineptitude – or better yet, spend their resources to fix the state’s problems. While you’re at it, maybe you could get the commissioners to do something about the war in Iraq.

    All while the debate about the county’s decision to approve the construction of 685 homes at Avimor, the cities have approved far more homes on far more treacherous stretches of State Highway 55 (otherwise known as Eagle Road). Yet neither Boise, Meridian, or Eagle required the developers of those low-density subdivisions & commercial developments to contribute to any mitigation efforts.

    In 2006, there were four fatal collisions on highway 55 (more than four deaths) within the limits of Ada County – none of which occured in the unincorporated portions of the county, or were related to county-approved developments. There’s also been a statistically significant increase in fatal collisions on SH55 over the past two years (a 250-500% increase from previous years). Maybe this is not as much a surprise to those who travel on Eagle Road, as it may be that ITD is the agency that controls access on the roadway.

    Oh well, keep up the good work chewing on the local land use agencies – I’m sure at some point the state may take notice. But then again, with all the deaths it’s seen on the highway over the past two years maybe its bureaucrats are on sensory overload.

  32. Clippityclop
    Sep 16, 2007, 9:53 am

    You’ve helped make my points regarding development approved by various land use agencies in the face of inadequate infrastructure — Avimor is not the only problem, obviously, and rest assured, the public has put intense pressure on ITD.

    Nonetheless, the land use agencies knew exactly what they were doing when they approved these developments and this sort of nonsense has to stop. If the County truly believes that ITD is the hopeless dysfunctional agency you describe, then why in the world would the County rely on that degree of dysfunction for upholding public safety? That’s exrememly poor leadership. Further, that misplaced reliance takes advantage of a troubled agency to accomodate developer goals (be clear, those developer application fees have paid the salaries of Ada County Development Services — that’s more than a little conflicted). George,

    I am sad to say that I think the County knew exactly what they could get away with… and as you have worked so hard to establish here, ITD makes a lovely scapegoat. The public is fed up and just ain’t buying it. We want real leadership from the County and not your self-serving excuses. I’ll bet 100 bucks you work for the County. Am I wrong?

  33. curious george
    Sep 16, 2007, 11:35 am


    If you were betting a hundred bananas I might be more interested in taking up the bet. Because I’m just a little, homeless, furry monkey – still trying to work on that opposable-thumb thing.

    And I believe that you’re a loveable, well-intentioned, though somewhat misdirected, bobtail nag. I’m sure that if left to your own devices you’ll eventually find your way back to the stable.

    If I had a choice in what I might become in my next life, it would have to be a gadfly. Until then, I’ll have to settle with taking a little nip now & then, and poking a few ribs (neither of which require a thumb).

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