Memorial Drive Project
The idea of reconfiguring Memorial Drive was first discussed in the 1980’s. The goals included an improved connectivity between the greenbelt and downtown, enhanced traffic flow, a parkway atmosphere, pedestrian and vehicle safety, vehicle parking, locations for outdoor events, tourist and visitor accessibility, repair of road condition and structure.
Scott Day, a specialist in urban design and design management strategies for commercial districts including historic preservation, landscape improvements, public improvements, retail image development, merchandising, and design guidelines was hired by the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation in 2008. Coming from San Antonio, TX he understood the need of using our greatest asset, the Snake River, to the best advantage. His proposals for the downtown area gave us a vision to work toward. Click here to view the concept map picture.
From about 1915 or earlier until the late 1950′s or early 1960′s, Memorial Drive had a landscaped median in the center of its eighty foot right-of-way. Due to the need for parking to serve the downtown merchants, the median was removed and parking was placed in the center of the right-of-way. Not only did the parking which backed into traffic pose a safety issue, but, by the late 1990′s, Memorial Drive was in need of reconstruction. The crown was too high. Curbs and gutters, which move water to storm drains, were missing along much of Memorial Drive. The asphalt was rutting and shoving due to the number of overlays on the street.
During 2009, community leaders, including representatives of the City Council, County Commissioners, and Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation met with Pierson Land Works, a landscape architectural firm, to develop concepts for Memorial Drive. In August, the concept accepted by this group of community leaders was the subject of open houses at Community Night Out, Idaho Falls Public Library, and University Place. The comments from these open houses spurred the construction, leasing, and designation of additional long-term parking downtown. A bus turn-out and careful attention to the needs of the disabled in the design of the round-about were also design details in response to comments at these open houses. In 2010, the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency (IFRA) contracted with the City of Idaho Falls to design Memorial Drive. The engineering department held additional open houses on a design in November, 2011, and completed the design in early 2012. After the cost estimates were prepared, representatives of IFRA and the City met to allocate the costs of Memorial Drive. In the spring of 2012, IFRA pledged to spend approximately $2.7 million to reconstruct Memorial Drive.
The construction on Memorial Drive began on July 9, 2012, after the July 4th celebration was held on the Greenbelt in the Memorial Drive area. The project was completed in mid-November, 2012.
Today, Memorial Drive is a two lane street with parking on the east side. All modes of transportation have been recognized in its new design. It was constructed as a sharrow, a lane to be shared by motor vehicles and bicycles. Turn-outs are provided in each direction to accommodate buses. The pedestrian facilities have been improved by signage and narrowing the intersections to reduce the crossing distance. The lighting on the street matches the downtown lighting, creating a tie into the downtown. Electrical outlets have been provided to accommodate vendors and others using the Greenbelt for community events. As a result of narrowing the paved travel way, the Greenbelt has been widened to provide additional space for community events.
But the best new is that it does not end here ~ the future plans for Memorial Drive are a spray park, an outdoor amphitheater on the edge of the river and foot bridge that crosses over the falls.
Yellowstone Highway borders the east side of Historic Downtown Idaho Falls. There was little visual appeal as visitors and commuters drove by. It was proposed to the city to make this have a gateway “you have arrived downtown” feel by adding trees and replacing the islands with attractive landscape bricks. In 2007 this project was completed bringing a wonderful clean and fresh look to this area of the downtown. As the trees grow and turn green every spring it sends a message that downtown Idaho Falls it also renewing itself and growing with new changes happening all the time!