Ada County Highway District

ACHD's Road Wizard Sunday, October 02, 2016 ACHD's Road Wizard

New signals on Capitol Boulevard and 9th Street for the Royal Boulevard extension getting undue blame for rush hour backups

The Road Wizard Replies

Dear Road Wizard: The new stop lights at Capitol Boulevard and 9th Street for Royal Boulevard are a disaster. Traffic is backed up on Capitol and 9th from University Drive to River Street during rush traffic times. If you try to follow the correct lane for left turns on southbound 9th at the University light, you are looking at sitting through three to five cycles at both Royal and University. If you are turning from University onto northbound Capitol and want to merge into the farthest left lane on Capitol by the library, forget it. Someone didn't really think through these additional lights very carefully. Thank goodness the Broadway Bridge is now open for an alternative route in and out of Boise State University and the neighborhoods around there.

Road Wizard:

Last week it was the new bike lanes on the Capitol Boulevard Bridge that were blamed for lunchtime traffic delays, now the finger is pointed at the new Royal Boulevard signals for causing rush hour delays. But neither change should get such a firm finger shaking since they are helping to reduce pedestrian and vehicle congestion.  

Remember, hundreds of off-campus, private, Boise State University student apartments were recently built just to the west of 9th Street. The increase in drivers would have put a huge burden on the already very busy University/Ann Morrison Park Drive/9th/Capitol/Boise Avenue intersection. For brevity, let's refer to it as the "University signal."

ACHD built the new Royal Boulevard extension to take some of the load off of the University signal and provide a crosswalk for pedestrians traveling across 9th and Capitol. However, drivers are noticing that the Royal signals are not coordinated with the University signal. This can create the impression that the new signals are causing unnecessary delays, especially because drivers released from University may be stopped at Royal.

The Royal signals are not coordinated with the University signal because there is too much going on at University to make it effective. It could even cause longer red lights at University.

While Royal isn't coordinated with University, it is coordinated with signals in the downtown Boise signal grid. The University signal hasn't worked in coordination with downtown signals for many years. It's just more noticeable now because the Royal signal is so close to University.

Even before the installation of the Royal signals, traffic on 9th sometimes backed up through the Royal location during peak drive times, and Capitol traffic was often stopped at the River signal for the same reason drivers are now stopped at Royal.

ACHD has found every available second to give to traffic on 9th and Capitol. For example,
the signal at Royal is programmed to give drivers a green light as soon as possible when there aren’t crosswalk users. But that may cause a stop at River for Capitol drivers since they may arrive before the green light is displayed.

Outside of the busiest drive times, the Royal signal is programmed to move northbound traffic smoothly from Royal, through River, Myrtle and Front streets. But during the worst of the peak drive times, the sheer volume of vehicles overwhelms the system.

Now, I don't want to get caught up in any finger-pointing myself, but it should be noted that traffic congestion is being made worse on Capitol these days because of downtown building projects that require lane restrictions.

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