Wednesday, February 13, 2013

City creeps forward with intersection study

‘Walmart light’ causes kerfuffle among residents


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

After lengthy discussion at a Sun Valley City Council meeting Thursday, Feb. 7, the council voted unanimously to scale down a proposed traffic safety study of the intersection of Elkhorn and Juniper roads.

In October, the council voted unanimously to install some safety improvements to the intersection, which Mayor Dewayne Briscoe and the council members said was hazardous due to limited visibility. The council approved the expenditure of $15,050 to install a streetlight at the location and to shave down a dirt berm near a stop sign on Juniper Road—just before the intersection of the road and the bike path—to increase the line of sight for bike path users and vehicles approaching the intersection.

The light was installed, but the council opted to wait until spring for work on the berm. According to City Administrator Susan Robertson, the light cost about $6,500 to purchase and install.

At a council meeting in January, the chambers were packed with residents who claimed the light was unnecessary, too bright and reminiscent of a “Walmart parking lot light.” Many residents also said alteration of the berm would be unnecessary and unnatural looking. People who spoke against the alterations said the council had made its October decisions based on anecdotal, personal experience, that the intersection was safe and that modifying it would be a waste of city money. A few attendees at the January meeting spoke in favor of the improvements, but they were significantly outnumbered.

At that meeting, the council voted unanimously to turn the new light off indefinitely and to hire a traffic engineer to conduct an empirical study of the intersection’s safety.

At the meeting Thursday, Councilman Nils Ribi said a quote for just under $35,000 from Boise-based engineering firm CH2M HILL was an “engineer retirement guarantee.” That quote was based on the study of five of the city’s 30 intersections, and included an option to study all the intersections for even more money. Community Development Director Mark Hofman said in an interview after the meeting that he requested a broad quote to give the council more options. He also said some people at the January meeting asked why the intersection of Juniper and Elkhorn deserved more attention than the others. He said he thought the council might choose to study more than one intersection to compare their relative safeties.

On Thursday, Council President Youngman moved to limit the scope of the study just to the intersection of Juniper and Elkhorn roads and to get a new quote from CH2M HILL.

“Let’s get the data,” he said.

In the meantime, the light remains off.


Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com

 




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