Ada County Highway District

ACHD's Road Wizard Sunday, April 1, 2018 ACHD's Road Wizard

Reader questions the design of the State Street/Veterans Memorial Parkway/36th Street intersection rebuild.

The Road Wizard Replies

Dear Road Wizard: Every single person I have talked to about it vehemently agrees that the design of the State Street/Veterans Memorial Parkway/36th Street intersection is the stupidest thing they have ever seen. I could go on and on about the problems with it, but I'll sum it up with three points: First, what exactly are semis pulling trailers or pickups pulling campers supposed to do if they want to turn left? Those U-turn things, particularly with the islands, seem way too tight. What about vehicles that might be pulling two or three trailers? Second, is it really a good idea to be stopping vehicles before the intersection? This means that drivers wanting to turn right from State can no longer do so on a red light. Thirdly, it seems patently obvious that ACHD and the Capital City Development Corp. are designing things for pedestrians and bicyclists first and motorists second. With Boise being the fastest growing city in the nation, how can this even remotely be considered a good idea?


Road Wizard:

Instead of building a far fatter intersection at overwhelmed State/Veterans/36th, the design team created a long and lean intersection called a "ThrU-turn." One of the biggest time-takers at intersections are protected green arrow left turns, so why not move those left turns down the road?

Efforts to come up with a better intersection layout go back to 2004, and more than 20 ideas were ultimately considered by the project team. This was not a case of "April Fools' rush in." ACHD, the City of Boise and the Federal Highway Administration were the core members of the group. The Idaho Transportation Department and Valley Regional Transit were among the many stakeholders that were part of the decision-making process. Public input was also an important consideration.

The intersection is under construction, so there is no turning back now. Instead, it is all about turning back to the intersection to make a left turn.

Motorists traveling east or west on State intending to turn left at the Veterans/36th intersection will need to drive about a city block farther past the main intersection and make a U-turn. There will be a signal for U-turns and a turning pocket that will allow drivers to go back to the intersection to turn right to complete their left turn.

Area businesses that rely on long truck trailers had a say on the U-turn space, and computer models were used to determine if allowable trailer lengths would work. The room required for the turns will be carved out on the sides of the roads.

The U-turn signals may add a stop for drivers approaching the intersection, but moving the left turns away from the intersection will provide more green light time for everyone else. Right-turns-on-red will still be allowed at the main intersection as well. Plus, some sort of signalized, traffic-stopping, pedestrian crossings were likely to go in near the left-turn/U-turn locations eventually anyway due to pedestrian habits on State.

The goal of the project is to balance the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles. There is nearby Boise River Greenbelt access, Veterans Memorial Park, an elementary school, neighborhoods and shopping. But motor vehicle traffic still wins -- the wait time for drivers at the intersection should be reduced significantly.

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