Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ITD to reconsider Timmerman 4-way

Sheriff’s concerns will be discussed


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Motorists negotiate the Timmerman Junction intersection last month.

The Idaho Transportation Department will reconsider the proposed four-way stop at Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue, ITD engineer Devin Rigby announced at a special meeting of the Blaine County Commission on Thursday, Dec. 16.

The department previously announced that it would install a four-way stop at the intersection of state Highway 75 and U.S. Highway 20, where there has been a recent spike in the number of accidents. However, the four-way stop was not recommended by the Road Safety Audit Committee, which was convened by the department in September to study the intersection and make a recommendation to reduce the number of accidents.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling, a member of the committee, told Rigby that he believes a four-way stop would cause liability issues and an increase in the number of accidents. County Commissioner Larry Schoen told Rigby at the meeting Thursday that he agreed with Femling's stance.

"I don't support the four-way stop, but I appreciate the pressure to come up with a short-term solution," Schoen said.

Rigby said he would work with Femling and other members of Blaine County law enforcement to find a new solution. He said the four-way stop was an attempt to find a quick, effective solution.

"We can't live with the accidents that are happening out there," he said. "This will solve the problem."

One complication of the issue is that the number of accidents at the intersection has increased in the past two to three years. Rigby said the department isn't sure what's causing the increase, but that's not for lack of trying.

"Something significant has changed and I don't know what it is," Rigby said. "We're not just throwing our hands up because we haven't looked at it."

Femling previously denounced the proposed four-way stop as unsafe, and elaborated on the reasons for his belief during the meeting.

"We'll have 30 cars back behind a truck," he said, which would have to gain speed to go from a complete stop to a speed that would enable it to climb Timmerman hill while going south on Highway 75.

Femling has previously stated that delays at the stop sign would cause an increase in rear-end accidents and dangerous driving conditions. But Rigby said the four-way stop would make the intersection safer, despite the potential for rear-end collisions.

"We foresee a major reduction in severity, injury accidents and accidents in general," Rigby said.

Still, Rigby said he was not entirely convinced of the necessity for a four-way stop when he first began studying the intersection. Now, he said, he's convinced that something must be done to stop northbound and southbound traffic and make the intersection safer. Now, only U.S. Highway 20 traffic has to stop.

"It's sitting on our hands and hoping we don't have accidents," Rigby said of implementing more minor solutions, such as larger stop signs on Highway 20 or better flashing beacons. "I've got to act."

Rigby and Femling agreed to discuss some of the committee's other recommendations, such as lane narrowing at the junction. According to the committee report, lane narrowing has been shown to decrease collisions at similar intersections, as narrower lanes lined with rumble strips increase driver awareness and tend to induce lower speeds.

The safety audit conducted by the committee identified four major problems at the intersection: a skewed angle where the roads meet, a lack of warning signs on state Highway 75, sign clutter and distractions on Highway 20, and worn rumble strips that have become ineffective.

Proposed short-term solutions include installing larger stop and "Cross Traffic Does Not Stop" notices on Highway 20 and installing flashing warning signs with speed advisories on Highway 75.

The eventual long-term solution, Rigby said, is a single-lane roundabout. He said the roundabout would likely not be completed for another five to six years.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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