University Blvd. in Idaho Falls will be renamed after Rep. Mike Simpson

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IDAHO FALLS — University Boulevard will soon bear the name of a long-time Idaho congressman.

The Idaho Falls City Council voted five to one to change the name of University Boulevard to MK Simpson Boulevard on Thursday. The decision came after Idaho National Laboratory officials asked to rename the street after Rep. Mike Simpson.

“We have an employer who has 4,300 employees and an average salary of $98,000,” Councilman John Radford said during Thursday’s city council meeting. “That didn’t happen by happenstance. We have a congressman who took some initiative when in 2003 President (George W.) Bush proposed cleaning up and closing down the lab.”

EastIdahoNews.com spoke with INL officials who said Simpson is responsible for bringing billions of dollars to the lab during his time on the appropriations committee.

“I want to commend Mayor Casper and the City Council for taking this step to honor the work of Congressman Simpson and Kathy Simpson,” said Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters in an emailed statement. “This is a fitting tribute to their efforts on behalf of INL and the entire community and a gracious acknowledgement of the work that went into revitalizing the lab over the past 15 years.”

Radford said the growth along University Boulevard is a result of Simpson’s efforts to support INL. Many of the buildings along the street — including the Center for Advanced Energy Studies — were built for use by the INL to further growth in recent years.

Left, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters discuss nuclear energy at the Advanced Test Reactor Complex on the DOE Idaho Site. | EastIdahoNews.com file photo

According to the city council’s website, notices of the possible change were sent to property owners along University Boulevard with no comments or concerns.

Councilman Jim Francis parted with the rest of the council and voted against the name change. He said his decision was because changing the name of the street while Simpson is still in office could appear as a political endorsement on the part of the council.

“What I think is right is political leaders get their recognition when they retire. If we don’t take that approach, it does become a political endorsement whether we like it or not,” Francis said. “I think that longterm, where we put ourselves is a very awkward position.”

Francis explained other groups could come to the council and request their political leader have a street named after them. He said that will eventually devolve into the council having to discuss voting records and positions of politicians.

“We will be in a position we really should not be in,” Francis said. “It’s so much wiser, in my view, to say this kind of honor comes when the leader has stepped aside from the position.”

The council will decide on a time and place to hold an official ceremony to change the name at later date.

Simpson has served in the United States House of Representatives since 1999. He was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee in 2003 served as the chair of the Energy and Water Subcommittee ever since.

Simpson currently lives in Idaho Falls with his wife.

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