The Idaho Capitol Commission wants the Ada County Highway District to lower the speed limit of the section of State Street that runs behind the Capitol building from 30 mph to 15 mph.
Commission Chairman Andrew Erstad wrote in a letter to ACHD that the portion of the State Street between 6th and 8th streets in downtown Boise “can prove hazardous,” and requested that “as a matter of public safety, the Capitol Commission would like to see a 15 m.p.h. instituted as soon as possible.” Erstad noted that it is fast approaching the time of year when legislators, media, staff and visitors descend on the building in increased numbers and the road is a danger to everyone.
The letter comes in response to an early-morning accident involving state Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell. The AP reported Bolz was struck and injured by a car while crossing the street on the morning of December 10. His crossing was particularly unsafe in the dark morning hours due to the lack of lighting around the crosswalk in the middle of the street section. His injuries were not serious, but he did receive medical treatment as a result of the accident. Bolz was slated to attend a Soil Conservation Commission meeting later that morning, but was unable to do so.
The crosswalk Bolz used was closed soon after the accident. (Read IdahoReporter's story on the closed crosswalk here.)
While only ACHD has the jurisdiction to lower the speed limit, the Capitol Commission, as the developer for the Capitol grounds, has the ability and responsibility to make safety upgrades to the road. Erstad wrote in the letter that the installation of ground-level flashers in the pavement around crosswalks are being mulled over by the commission, but he noted those improvements are “still several months away.” At the last commission meeting, Commissioner Jeff Youtz proposed implementing the flashers, as well as the installation of several speed bumps in the block-long stretch of road. Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, proposed that ACHD take steps to establish a pedestrian mall between state buildings which are adjacent to the Capitol.
ACHD reports that due to the busy nature of the street, it is highly unlikely the pedestrian mall will happen in the foreseeable future. According to ACHD's Public Information Officer Robbie Johnson, the department will consider the speed limit reduction, but will also consider more targeted approaches to pedestrian safety because "artificially reducing posted speed limits below the speed where most people drive at can create more safety problems, rather than solving them." She also said that since 2000, there have only been two vehicle/pedestrian accidents on that strip of road, one of which was the accident involving Rep. Bolz.
ACHD has responded that it will gather information on the request and will present an official staff report on the matter at the upcoming ACHD Commission meeting on Wednesday, January 6 .