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The Roads Not Taken:

Boise and the Interstate Highway, 1960

The creation of the Interstate Highway System was one of the signal achievements of the Eisenhower administration.  President Eisenhower's frustration with the nation's patchwork system of federal and state highways went back to his Army days, when he was responsible for transporting troops and supplies cross-country. When he became President, he actively embraced the proposal to build a system of multi-lane, controlled access freeways across America.  Created by law in 1955, the Interstate system took decades to build.  The law mandated that the highways "shall be so located as to connect by routes, as direct as practicable, the principal metropolitan areas, cities, and industrial centers," but that "local needs, to the extent practicable, suitable, and feasible, shall be given equal consideration with the needs of interstate commerce."  In Boise, the Boise Metropolitan Transportation Committee, made up of local governmental and transportation officials, was assigned the task of recommending the local route.






The committee released its findings and recommendations in a booklet published in July 1960 entitled Metropolitan Boise & the Interstate Highway. It outlined three alternative routes, known as the River Parkway route, the Railroad route, and the Bypass route.  The committee favored the River Parkway option, one that would have routed the Interstate through Julia Davis Park and along the north bank of the Boise River.  In the end, however, cost considerations prevailed, and the Bypass route, through lightly-developed land south of town near the airport, became the Interstate's path.  This website reproduces select pages from Metropolitan Boise & the Interstate Highway, illustrating what might have been.

The Map of the Alternatives

Click on the Interstate Symbol

What is now known as Interstate 84 was originally designated I-80 North.  A map of Boise with the three alternative routes was published in the booklet.  Click on the highway marker on the left to see the map.  The dark solid line closest to the top of the map marks the River Parkway route; the orange line in the middle is the Railroad route; and the dotted line at the bottom of the map is what was known as the Bypass route, the path that was ultimately chosen.

Conceptual Drawings of the Through-Town Routes


From the East, the River Parkway route would have brought the Interstate into town through southeast Boise, crossed the river near Walnut Street, turned and followed the north bank of the Boise River through Julia Davis Park, and proceeded out of town close to the route of the present-day Connector. In the heart of the city, four lanes of concrete would have separated Boiseans from their river.

The Railroad route would have brought the Interstate through town alongside the railroad tracks on the Bench.  It would have passed just to the south of the Boise Depot, where a cloverleaf interchange with Vista Avenue would have been built.  This option would have required the destruction of many homes and businesses.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Route

Click on the maps for the committee's analysis of each route 

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