Ada County Highway District

ACHD's Road Wizard Sunday, June 19, 2016 ACHD's Road Wizard

Newly opened dog bone-shaped roundabout at 36th, Hill Road gets praise; traffic-control trouble during the Saint Al's Capitol Classic

The Road Wizard Replies

Dear Road Wizard: Let's hear a round of applause for ACHD and the installation of the 36th Street "dog bone" roundabout. In all my domestic and foreign travel I've never seen another dog bone. What a great solution to traffic flow at a complex intersection. Works great. I love it!
Phil

Road Wizard:

ACHD appreciates the praise. The no-traffic-signal dog bone is so much better than what was the awkward, signalized, five-leg intersection of 36th Street, Hill Road and Catalpa Drive.

The newly-constructed conjoined mini roundabouts are unique, and the design was many years in the making. The process started in the mid-1990s when there was talk of splitting the intersection into two parts, but cut-through traffic concerns overwhelmed the idea.

Around the same time, the notion of a roundabout was discussed. It would have involved a large, single circle and major land purchases to secure the needed space. Back then roundabouts weren't widely popular anyway, so the design was dropped.

But living with a traffic signal meant peak drive time delays. Refusing to give up, ACHD staff presented the dog bone idea to commissioners in 2007.

The odd shape would require less space and work with the five intersection approaches, as well as the Hillside Junior High School access. The design saved about $2 million compared to a big-circle roundabout, largely due to decreased impacts on property owners.

The roundabout just as easily could have been called a "barbell" or "peanut shell" but the dog bone name stuck - perhaps because it took so long for ACHD and the community to chew on the idea.

Dear Road Wizard: Who is responsible for temporary road closures because of events? And for getting the word out about them? I knew the Saint Alphonsus Capitol Classic run for kids was on Saturday morning, June 4, and I presumed that Capitol Boulevard would be closed. But when we tried to get onto eastbound River Street at 11th Street, headed for the Boise Public Library, the street was blocked by a mini-helicopter. There were no warning signs, so there were three lanes of cars packed into one lane all having to turn west onto River. I saw no signs about the closure. And there was nothing in the morning paper about closures. Any thoughts on how it should have been handled? For sure, this wasn't the right way!
Judy

Road Wizard:

The traffic trouble was on the side streets; there weren't enough signs informing drivers or trained people available to direct traffic. Thinking outside the box, a Boise police officer called in the helicopter to block traffic. You can't make this stuff up!

The thought was that a helicopter in the middle of the intersection would stop traffic better than having an untrained person in the intersection. Hardly a standard approach, but it worked.

Event organizers are responsible for traffic control and spreading the word about closures. It's a condition of event approval. The Capitol Classic was well advertised, but that doesn't reach everyone. ACHD will often send out news releases about event-related closures, but that isn't ACHD's official responsibility. It didn't happen in this case.

There will be an "after" meeting to discuss the event with ACHD, police, and Boise City staff to help the event organizer do better next time. Clearly, more attention to side streets will be a priority.

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