Community brainstorm ideas for busy intersection

by Daniel Moore
Press Staff Writer

Community members tried their hand at civil engineering as the Idaho Transportation Department asked for any and all ideas at a workshop on Tuesday, March 13. The workshop focused on the intersection of Pocatello Ave. in American Falls, and the Highway 39 bypass.

Ideas ranged from the ordinary—to just keep the intersection the same, to the spectacular—to build an overpass that would keep the traffic flowing in all directions.

Not many people suggested ITD’s original plans for the intersection, which is to build a roundabout or place a signal somewhere near the intersection.

ITD gives letter grades to rate the level of service different pathways offer vehicles. Pocatello Avenue, heading into and out of American Falls gets an “A” on the ITD rating, as does the ramp onto Highway 39 heading west. But Highway 39 heading east gets an “F” on the same scale. Traffic heading east on the highway must stop at Pocatello Ave. before turning left, and that causes a long wait time, especially for heavy trucks which frequent the intersection.

It is, however, a very safe intersection, much more safe than the intersection of Highway 39 and Hillcrest Avenue or the intersection of Highway 39 and Fort Hall Avenue further west. The intersection of Pocatello Ave. had only four accidents in the last 10 years, where the intersection at Fort Hall had 27.

Dan Harelson with the Idaho Transportation Department said they do not want to simply move the stop sign from the highway to Pocatello Ave., since that would increase the opportunity for accidents, on par with the other intersections on the highway.

However, for many of the truckers frequenting the intersection, that is exactly what they wanted. Many wondered why traffic was brought to a full stop on a state highway, when a local road received the right of way. They felt ITD could move the stop, and continue to make the intersection safe by adding additional turn lanes or merging lanes for traffic heading in and out of American Falls. Some suggested lowering the speed limit for that corner as well.

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