There has been concern regarding student safety on Pancheri Drive in Idaho Falls. The city is currently working on an expansion project and the construction has caused problems for students crossing the street. In that area there are three schools totaling more than 2,000 students: Skyline High School, Eagle Rock Middle School, and Ethel Boyes Elementary.
The final construction plans include several signaled crosswalks on Pancheri, but the city and the school district are still discussing what the best options may be.
At Tuesday's Idaho Falls school district 91 board meeting, Idaho Falls city engineers showed the plans for new signal lights. The main area of concern is the intersection of Pancheri Drive and Grizzly Avenue. The plan is to install a "High-intensity Activated crossWalk"(HAWK) light. It's the first of its kind in Idaho Falls, though there is one in Rexburg. The pedestrian pushes a button causing lights to flash yellow, then steady yellow, then steady red and finally, flashing red.
"Most of the day the signal is just dark, but when there is a pedestrian activation the signal comes on and actually stops the traffic to allow the people to cross the street," said Kent Fugal, Idaho Falls city engineer.
Some members of the school board say a full traffic signal would be better.
"We ask that they pursue that a little further and that is really based on a conservative decision making process in the best interest in the safety of our students," said David Lent, D91 school board member.
Fugal said that isn't a legal option.
"Right now there isn't enough traffic to meet the traffic signal warrants in the federal manual. That is the standard we are held to, that is adopted as state law in Idaho and we are obligated to follow that," he said.
Some board members suggested checking with the city attorney.
"[The city should] pursue this in the legal council of the city to ensure that every option available has been pursued and that we are not making this decision based on their interpretation of what the regulations concerning stoplights on streets entail," said Lent.
Even if a full signal can't happen just yet, the city is preparing for it by installing the complete underground infrastructure now.
To keep students safe in the meantime, the city is temporarily providing extra crossing guards, patrols, and signage.