Crosswalk Cost Conundrum

I am a staunch fiscal conservative, but believe the money that will be spent on a signalized crosswalk at Front and 2nd Streets – directly in front of the Ada County Courthouse – is very worthwhile. Over the past six years, Ada County has left the allowable three percent property tax increase on the table, leaving approximately $60 million in taxpayers’ pockets. Nevertheless, by teaming up with the Ada County Highway District and the Idaho Department of Transportation, we have managed to allocate the $140,000 necessary to install a new crosswalk in front of the courthouse where we currently have an average of over 3000 people jaywalking each week.

You might be wondering what we were thinking when we made the decision to fund the cross walk, together with matching funds from ACHD and ITD. The main decision points included the following:

• We would rather pay for another crosswalk, than watch as the body of a child or infant is scraped from the pavement because their parent decided to take the shortcut across the street. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Recently, young mother Raquel Nelson’s four-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver when Raquel tried to get her three kids across a busy street in Marietta, Georgia, without the benefit of a signalized crosswalk.

• We considered the inconvenience and burden the existing crosswalks have on the disabled, who often take the shortcut across the street because it is easier than rolling a wheelchair of walker all the way down to the corner at Front and 3rd Streets.

• We would rather pay now, than wait until someone is actually killed before expending the resources to install a signalized crosswalk. ITD has calculated the economic cost of a fatality in a motor vehicle crash to exceed $6 million, far more than the cost of a new crosswalk.

• We considered the statistics. There were 195 pedestrians involved in motor vehicle crashes in Idaho in 2010, including ten fatalities. We would rather be criticized by a handful of concerned citizens for caring enough to expend $140,000 for a worthy cause, than continue to allow the lives of over 3000 people a week to be risked, even if it is due to their own actions.

It has been suggested that courthouse security officers issue tickets to jaywalkers; however, there are numerous problems with that idea, not the least of which is that these security officers do not have the authority to issue tickets. The Boise Police Department has ticketed jaywalkers and we have generated quite a bit of news coverage about the jaywalking problem. We also took over parking on the courthouse complex and dramatically reduced parking costs, thereby eliminating this deterrent to parking in the garage next to the courthouse, but the reality is that there are thousands of lives still at risk each and every week.

To put this expenditure – and the county’s overall budget and spending practices into perspective, it might behoove taxpayers to research how many times over the past six years the cities and school districts have increased your property taxes and by how much the property tax portion of their budgets has increased. You will find that our overall appetite for spending tax dollars is significantly lower than that of most of the other taxing districts in the county. The cost of a crosswalk is significant but is nothing compared to the lives of the thousands of people that are at risk each week without one.

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