A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Main and Hill

Oct 31, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

A traffic light there seems a good idea, along with a lower speed limit

Thoughtful, observant, concerned people have raised the issue of placing a new traffic light on West Main Street in Riverton, specifically, at the intersection of Main and Hill streets.

The idea deserves careful analysis and consideration, with public safety the focus of the effort.

And while the powers that be are at it, here's another idea: Lower the speed limit on that stretch of West Main as well. The way to do it is to extend the 30 mph speed zone another mile or so to the west, so that it stays at 30 mph clear to Hill Street.

There is recent history that provides precedent. At the moment, the speed limit jumps from 30 mph to 45 mph just past the Maverik store driveway. The lower speed zone already has been extended once in recent years, having been moved from the Main-Major intersection to its current spot. The rationale at that time was the opening of Major Avenue in conjunction with that street's extension to Riverview Road.

That all happened when the new Riverton Middle School opened. It was known that traffic patterns would change because of the school because of morning drop-offs, afternoon pick-ups, sports practices and events, buses and other vehicles taking advantage of the newly opened route. Traffic in the area has increased further since the opening of Wolverine Field. There's no light there, but the speed zone, wisely, was lengthened.

Similar conditions now exist at the College View intersection. The street itself was created many years ago to provide a second access route to the CWC campus from the east. When Riverton High School and Riverton Memorial Hospital moved to west Riverton, College View picked up more cars, and traffic increased still further on College View when the middle school arrived.

The speed limit is still 45 mph at the College View intersection, by the way, and there have been calls to lower it, which is a good idea. A 45 mph approach to a traffic light is more dangerous than a 30 mph approach, which is what drivers are used to elsewhere in town.

There is a good argument to be made that the same circumstances now have changed the Hill Street intersection as well. Part of it has to do with changes on the CWC campus, where the old circle drive has been eliminated since the arrival of the ITEC building. Once the new health/science center opens, more changes around the campus will become apparent. Arts Center users now use Hill Street in higher numbers than they used to when the circle drive existed, and before west side parking was moved farther from the Arts Center.

The development of the College Hill neighborhood has brought more traffic to the intersection as well, as has growing population on Riverview Road, where Hill Street to the south is a primary access point.

All this extra traffic has arrived in an area where the speed limit is 45 mph, not far from the 65 mph speed zone just up the road to the west. By the time many drivers reach Hill Street from the west, they still haven't slowed fully to 45 mph. Likewise, drivers heading out of town often are accelerating past 45 mph at Hill Street as they anticipate hitting the highway speed zone just ahead.

So much for the municipal geography lesson. Drivers will use new routes for convenience and necessity, and the changes can occur quickly. Those changes can collide with the habits of longer-term users, and conflict can result.

West Main isn't what it used to be. There is more traffic than ever, but control measures still are what they were 20 years ago. The State of Wyoming and the City of Riverton ought to start collaborating immediately on monitoring conditions and gathering data with the goal of establishing a new traffic light at Main and Hill, extending the 30 mph speed zone to Main and Hill -- or, preferably, both.

-- Steven R. Peck

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