Ada County Highway District

ACHD's Road Wizard Sunday, October 30, 2016 ACHD's Road Wizard

West Parkcenter Bridge is not the best looking span over the Boise River, why? Reader catches needed change to pedestrian signal on Front Street at Broadway Avenue; deep manhole covers on westbound State Street fixed

The Road Wizard Replies

Dear Road Wizard: The Capitol Boulevard Bridge and the new Broadway Avenue Bridge are both terrific statement bridges and allow for river views as you drive over them. You certainly can't say the same for the West Parkcenter Bridge. It is basically nothing more than ugly cement barriers. Are there any plans to get rid of the barriers and incorporate a more thoughtful design?

Road Wizard:

The majority of the Broadway Avenue Bridge reconstruction work is wrapped up with a bow, but in many ways it was a more straightforward project than the West Parkcenter Bridge.

For one thing, the Parkcenter bridge (the one closest to downtown Boise) was built about 15 years ago where no bridge existed before. And in order to connect the roads on either side of the Boise River, it had to be constructed on a curve. There were also apartments and condos on either side of the bridge to consider in the design.

The concrete barriers between the sidewalks and vehicle lanes were installed to reduce traffic noise. The barriers in the center of the bridge block headlight beams from shining in the eyes of drivers traveling in the opposite direction. The barriers also prevent headlights from lighting up residential windows.

In contrast, the Capitol and Broadway bridges run straight, and don't impact adjacent homes.

Without the barriers, the Parkcenter Bridge would be a better contestant in any Boise bridge beauty contest. But the design priorities must remain focused on function over form. Drivers should be busy holding their lanes on the curve, not looking at the river.

Dear Road Wizard: I love the new protected right turn from southbound Broadway Avenue onto Front Street. But with the new pedestrian island, I have noticed the walk signal needs updating. Pedestrians used to be given an extra few seconds before the traffic light would turn green. This made the intersection a little inefficient, but safer for pedestrians. We no longer need this delay. Has this been overlooked by ACHD or is there some aspect to this "pedestrian head start" I'm missing?

Road Wizard:

The pedestrian island does two things. First, it breaks up the long crosswalk on Front into two parts, making it safer and easier to use. There are new pedestrian-activated crosswalk-in-use lights to alert motorists that a pedestrian is present. Secondly, the island improves traffic flow because it created a free right turn of sorts from southbound Broadway onto Front.

The pedestrian head start, also known as a "leading pedestrian interval" makes crosswalk users more visible to drivers by allowing people to start crossing before motorists get the green light.

The head start is indeed no longer necessary because of the island. ACHD had overlooked that fact and now has adjusted the pedestrian signal thanks to this great reader observation.

Leading pedestrian intervals are sometimes used where there is heavy turning traffic and high pedestrian demand. The Broadway crosswalks at the intersection still fit that description and will continue to provide a head start.

Dear Road Wizard: I'm impressed. I wrote to you several weeks ago commenting on the deep manhole covers on westbound State Street. Literally two weeks later they are fixed with concrete collars, making for smooth sailing. There is no need to respond to this, I just wanted to let you know you guys rock. Thanks for all you do.

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