Monday, April 22, 2024

'Something we would entertain'

Staff Writer | March 2, 2024 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The Idaho Transportation Department said it would be “open to conversation” about the city of Coeur d’Alene taking over synchronization of traffic lights on U.S. 95 and Government Way.

It would involve a lengthy process and a memorandum of understanding, said Heather McDaniel, ITD public information officer.

“The city would have to open that door,” she said in a recent phone interview with The Press. “I think that would be something we would entertain.”

But McDaniel expressed doubt that the change would improve traffic flow on those busy roads.

“I'm not sure who is managing the signals on 95 is really going to increase the effectiveness of them,” she said.

Hayden resident Bill Brizee recently presented a resolution to the Coeur d’Alene City Council calling for the city to take over synchronization of traffic lights on Government Way and U.S. 95 from the ITD.

He said local control would be a better way to coordinate traffic lights, improve flow, increase capacity and provide the ability to “make corrections as necessary” in certain situations, such as accidents.

He said part of the problem is that the state controls the east-west traffic lights on Government Way, while the city controls the north-south traffic lights.

“We cannot control all traffic lights right now because ITD governs and controls a lot of them,” Brizee said.

Glenn Miles, executive director of the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, told The Press in a previous interview improving traffic flow is not just a matter of synchronizing lights.

Adjusting lights to stay green longer in one direction can create delays and backups in another, he said.

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” he said. 

McDaniel said the traffic lights on Government Way and U.S. 95 are already optimized. 

She noted that last year, ITD replaced signals through the U.S. 95 corridor with a detection and activation system designed to improve safety and prioritize northbound and southbound traffic flow at night.

The change enhanced communication between the traffic lights and optimized the timing pattern, ITD said.

“Updating to a nighttime activation system will keep the corridor uniform with the functionality of other signals throughout the area managed by local highway districts and cities,” an ITD press release said.

McDaniel said ITD already works with cities on traffic light operations.

“They're basically functioning the best they possibly can at the moment,” she said.

Todd Feusier, city of Coeur d’Alene director of streets and engineering, said he anticipates that at some point the city would consider an agreement with ITD regarding taking over light synchronization.

“But far down the road,” Feusier said.

He said the city is in the process of receiving about $4 million in grant funds through the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council to upgrade signals on Government Way from Harrison Avenue to Prairie Avenue.

The plan is to add radio communication between the signals.

Feusier said they hope to start that project this summer.

He said while there would be some give and take, the city taking over synchronization of all traffic lights on U.S. 95 and Government Way “would be very beneficial” for traffic.

“I could see that it would make a difference,” Feusier said.