Wednesday, July 10, 2013

ITD mulls reduced night speed limit

Proposal would slow traffic down in area frequented by wildlife

Express Staff Writer

    The Idaho Transportation Department is considering a reduced night-time speed limit for a two-mile stretch of state Highway 75 immediately north of Hailey in order to reduce the number of accidents between vehicles and wildlife, particularly deer and elk.
    The proposal has the support of Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey and a Wildlife Crossing Committee that was formed to help ITD come up with solutions to the high number of wildlife-versus-vehicle collisions in the Wood River Valley.
    “I’m supportive of the reduction of speed at night,” Sheriff Gene Ramsey said in an interview Monday. “That won’t affect that commute. I’m very supportive of cutting down the number of accidents we’ve had with people and animals.”
    The reduced speed limit would be from McKercher Boulevard north to about Zinc Spur Road. ITD District Traffic Engineer Bruce Christensen compiled data on accidents in the area that was provided to the Wildlife Crossing Committee at a meeting on July 1.
    The data shows that from 2007 through 2013 there have been 60 accidents along the two-mile stretch of road and that 32 of them involved vehicle collisions with wildlife.
    Of those 32 accidents, 23 of them, or 73 percent, occurred at night. Another four accidents, or 12 percent, occurred at either dawn or dusk. Only five of the accidents, or 16 percent, occurred during daylight.
    The Wildlife Crossing Committee, which serves as an advisory committee to the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee, is now trying to find out whether the BCRTC will support the idea.
    Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary, who chairs both the wildlife committee and the BCRTC, sent an email to BCRTC members last week advising them of the proposal.
    “There are a few hot spots along the highway for deer and elk mortality and this is one of them,” McCleary wrote. “It is also one of the areas that is better suited to a speed limit change because of the nature of the road in this area and because it is adjacent to a lower speed limit area.
    “I would like your thoughts on this proposal and if you have any questions or concerns,” McCleary stated. “The Wildlife Crossing Committee was in full support of pursuing this option.”
    McCleary further wrote that if the BCRTC is supportive of the proposal then the committee should send a letter to ITD for evaluation.

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