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Traffic light at Hill Street might not be best option, CWC hears

Nov 27, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Wyoming Department of Transportation officials say there is nothing wrong with U.S. Highway 26 at its intersection with Hill Street near Central Wyoming College.

"It's things that are connecting into our highway that are causing the problems," WyDOT information specialist Cody Beers told the CWC Board of Trustees during their November meeting.

He attended the meeting to address concerns about the intersection, where CWC staff and students have observed dozens of "near miss" traffic accidents. According to WyDOT statistics, 18 actual crashes have been documented there since 2007, resulting in 14 injuries and no fatalities.

Alignment issues

Beers said issues at the intersection have more to do with the alignment of Hill Street as it approaches the highway than with the highway itself. To the south, the roadway presents motorists with a steep incline as they travel from Riverview Road to Main Street, and to the north Hill Street connects with the highway at an angle that is awkward for most drivers.

"It requires you to maneuver your vehicle to look up and down West Main Street before you enter the road," Beers said. "But Hill Street is a city street, not a state highway."

He said he would be happy to discuss options with city and college representatives who are responsible for any changes to the roads intersecting with U.S. Highway 26.

"It'll take creative funding," Beers said. "But that's something we'd like to do before we get to the point where we're forced politically ... to install a traffic signal."

City's request

WyDOT is studying the intersection this year at the request of Riverton officials, and while the spot is moving closer to meeting state requirements for traffic devices, Beers said a signal is not yet warranted at Hill and Main streets. He added that unnecessary traffic lights can cause more problems on the highway.

"You trade some of the types of crashes when you put a traffic signal in place," Beers said. "You end up with rear-end type crashes at signalized intersections. ... We don't want to do something that causes the situation to be worse."

When asked about possibly lowering the speed limit past the college, where motorists are allowed to drive 45 mph, Beers said WyDOT recommends maintaining the current speed limit.

"We want to set a speed limit people will actually honor," he said. "People will drive what they feel comfortable driving."

CWC trustee Frank Welty suggested that some option other than a $300,00 traffic light could be helpful, like a yellow flashing light that could warn highway drivers that they are approaching an intersection.

"There are rules, but you have to be flexible," he said. "You don't want someone to be killed at the intersection because you haven't done anything. ... I think you need to look at it to see how do you ameliorate that problem there and fit it into your rules."

Beers pointed to the intersection of Wyoming Highway 789 and Honor Farm Road, where WyDOT worked to improve visibility and safety without installing a traffic signal.

"We feel pretty good about some things we've done there," he said. "That's a good example of what we try to do before we install a traffic signal."

He said the college could take some steps of its own to address perceived problems at the intersection. For example, he said WyDOT allowed CWC to place construction signs on campus while a new parking lot was being constructed on the east side of the college property. Those were supposed to be removed before school began this fall so fewer people would drive through the Hill Street intersection to use the school's west-side parking lot.

"When I looked at both parking lots today (there were) a lot of cars parking in this parking lot on the west side, and literally dozens of open parking spots in the new lot," Beers said.

Watt Court

In addition, he said, CWC officials had agreed to connect Watt Court -- the road south of Peck Avenue -- with the new parking lot to provide another off-highway exit from campus.

"It's about 150 feet of road that would need to be built," Beers said. "I can tell you as a father and someone who lives close to the college I'd love to see my child not even have to go to West Main Street to enter that parking lot."

CWC President Jo Anne McFarland said she would love to partner with WyDOT to pay for an extension of the roadway, adding that the Watt Court connection is still in the works.

"We have funding set aside to do that," she said.

McFarland plans to set up an informal meeting with WyDOT officials and college staff to investigate the issue further. CWC faculty already talked about the issue last month during a Riverton City Council meeting.

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