Sheriff frustrated about lack of progress at ‘most deadly intersection’ in his county
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ASHTON — It’s the most deadly intersection in Fremont County, according to Sheriff Len Humphries, and he wants something done before another person is killed.
He’s talking about U.S. Highway 20 and State Highway 47 – the intersection where three vehicles collided at the intersection Monday night. Nine people were hurt in the wreck, and seven, including several children, were taken to area hospitals.
“The problem is that we have people that come from all over, and they’re in a hurry, and they’re not familiar with the terrain,” Humphries tells EastIdahoNews.com. “That intersection has been scheduled for a traffic light for years, and it keeps getting pushed off.”
Because U.S. 20 is a federal road, Fremont County can’t make changes to the intersection. That’s up to the Idaho Department of Transportation, and engineers say projects are in the works to make the area safer.
A new stop sign with advanced flashing warning lights will soon be added, and rumble strips leading up to the intersection will be installed before Labor Day, said ITD Traffic/Materials Engineer Bryan Young.
But a traffic signal that was supposed to be installed next year, with the price tag of $1.5 million, has been pushed back until 2023, and Humphries says that is not acceptable.
“If they would take the money they’d been putting into all of these studies and just put the light system in, we’d be done and over with and moving down the road,” Humphries tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Young says ITD has been working with the City of Ashton since city leaders requested a review of the intersection. The department ran into unforeseen problems and had to push the project back because of the Frostop sign that sits on the corner of SH-47.
“SHIPO (State Historic Preservation Office) considers this sign to be historic. ITD has been working directly with SHIPO to ensure that we mitigate the impacts as much as possible,” Young says.
Humphries says another issue with the intersection is the speed limit on the northbound lanes of U.S. 20. The two-lane portion approaching Ashton is 65 mph but then drops to 45 mph as a turning lane into Ashton appears on the right. Humphries says the road is not well marked, and the 45 mph area is near an elementary school.
“Even at 45, you’re really pushing your luck. You’ve got a grade school right there at that corner, and where do you have a 45 mph speed limit with a grade school right there? Where do you see that? Nowhere but Fremont County,” Humphries says.
Young says the state is also working to mitigate that concern.
“ITD has received concerns from the City of Ashton that it is an unsafe condition for elementary school students and that school buses enter directly onto U.S. 20,” Young says. “ITD is working with the city to see what options we have.”
Humphries feels that over the years, discussion in the county has been focused on the wrong areas, and it’s time human safety is taken into account.
“We had a big to-do in Fremont County about overpasses for wildlife. They wanted to spend millions of dollars. I love wildlife, and I don’t want to see them hit on a road, but our priority has got to be with people,” Humphries says. “I understand that extensive changes take a long time to acquire funding and make plans – I understand that. It’s just discouraging when plans are made, and then they’re interrupted and delayed. I’m sure the folks at ITD are just as frustrated as I am about the delays.”