In late November, the traffic signal at the busiest intersection in Sun Valley went out of service. Now, the Sun Valley City Council is leaning toward making the temporary stop signs at Sun Valley, Saddle and Dollar roads permanent due to the low financial commitment, efficiency and safety.
On Thursday, Betsy Roberts, Sun Valley City engineer, presented various options to the mayor and city council, which ranged from a less comprehensive project that would focus more on pedestrian and bike safety, to the construction of a roundabout that would remake the entire streetscape.
“I like the roundabout option, but enhancing what we have now is the easiest solution,” Mayor Peter Hendricks said.
Roberts presented three options to the council. The first is an improvement on the current fix, which was designed to be temporary at first, but has worked well enough to merit consideration permanently. As of now, the intersection has a stop sign in each direction, instead of the overhead signal that had been in place for decades.
“As of now, the stop signs are functioning better than a signal,” Roberts said.
That option would also include improvements to the pedestrian and bike accommodations at all corners—specifically, implementation of crosswalks and improved corners and ramps. The estimated up-front cost of the project is $911,000. The estimated 30-year operations and management cost, which covers all maintenance and work on the intersection until past 2050, is $391,000.
The second option is an improved signal—essentially an upgrade of the previous system. This plan would add a left-turn lane for eastbound, westbound and northbound traffic. The signal would also use a new phasing pattern that should improve efficiency. This option would cost an estimated $2.6 million up front, with 30-year maintenance costs totaling $932,000.
The final option is a traditional roundabout that would replace the broken signal and the temporary stop signs. The roundabout could accommodate up to 53-foot trailers, without even accounting for trailers rolling over part of the center median, which city staff said is normal for large trailers. This option costs a little more than $3.2 million, with 30-year operations and management costs of $503,000.
Sun Valley engineers recommended that the city pursue the roundabout, despite its cost. They said it’s the safest option, as well as the most efficient and simplest as far as maintenance goes. The roundabout would also “create change for street context by creating a gateway or otherwise eliminating the state highway feel,” according to the city’s presentation.
“I think we should keep the current setup, for cost,” Councilman Keith Saks said.
Council members Michelle Griffith, Jane Conard and Brad DuFur did not offer thoughts on the project.
In the last week of November, the traffic light at the four-way intersection near the red barn at the entrance of town went out of service. Sun Valley Streets Superintendent Bill Whitesell described what happened in an interview in mid-December.
“There is a magnetic loop that [powers the light] embedded in the asphalt. That loop has a fault in it somewhere, and it wasn’t working correctly, so we just decided to change it to just flashing red,” he said.
Since then, the intersection has functioned like a four-way stop, complete with temporary stop signs to reinforce the point. Police Chief Kim Orchard said during the meeting that since then, there have been only two minor accidents, neither of which resulted in serious injuries.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Saks said.
City Finance Manager Kelly Rockwood said at a council meeting in December that the city will have to wait until the snow melts to address this problem properly.
“This is just a case of old equipment that needs to be dealt with, and it can’t be in the wintertime,” she said.
Snow prevents crews from being able to properly dig up the magnetic loop and fix it. Whichever option is chosen will be implemented once the weather warms up. Hendricks said that regardless of that timeline, he wants pedestrian improvements to be picked soon.
“I want to figure out what can be done to make this a safer intersection by the time the mountain closes and people get on their bikes,” he said. ￼
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stop signs have their place, until traffic volumes get too high. Signals have ten times the risk of fatal crash as roundabouts. Stop signs will be run. I hope when it breaks it's not a person that gets broken.
Welcome to the discussion.