The placement of new traffic lights is always a political discussion. The town, county, state, and even the federal government are often partners in the decision whether to add a new light, leave a dangerous intersection as it is, or make a compromised modification.
The intersection on West Main Street in Riverton where Hill Street intersects with US Highway 26 is dangerous. Hill Street connects on both sides of West Main/Highway 26 but the street is offset, creating an intersection that is not at right angles to the main flow of traffic. That is one of the problems with the present layout of the intersection, but another, bigger problem is visibility.
The line of sight for a vehicle approaching towards West Main can be impeded on some vehicles.
A similar problem at the intersection of West Main and College View Drive resulted in a four-way traffic light being installed a few years ago.
In a comparison of Wyoming Department of Transportation data from 2007 to 2012, there were 16 crashes at West Main and College View Drive resulting in three injuries serious enough for medical intervention.
During the same period, there were 18 crashes at Hill Street and West Main resulting in 14 people requiring medical attention.
Additional information from the Riverton Police Department for the years 2011-2022 indicated 24 crashes at the Hill Street intersection.
Dr. Chuck Rodgers of Riverton, a retired psychologist, presented this information at the FORCC (One Cent Committee) earlier this month, seeking a solution to the problem intersection, possibly with the revenue generated by the one-cent tax.
He met with then Riverton Director of Public Works, and now City Administrator Kyle Butterfield to discuss the problem.
“Central Wyoming College at various times since at least 2000 has wanted a stoplight. The city has also been involved at various times. Since 2000, increased traffic due to housing units west of CWC has occurred,” Rodgers said. “I don’t know if enrollment or the number of staff/student drivers has increased. There has been intermittent talk of extending Sunset West. If that were to happen, there would be increased pressure on that intersection.”
While Rodgers has been concerned for a long time about the intersection, that concern became personal on May 18, 2022, when his wife Cheryl was involved in an accident at the intersection. Cheryl, who had driven for 61 years accident free was “T-boned” in their Toyota Prius as she tried to cross West Main.
“She not only is a careful driver, but she hates that intersection,” Rodgers said. “For three years she has visited a friend who lives in an apartment west of CWC three to four times per week and has come home complaining about that intersection virtually every time. At the accident site, she kept repeating that she didn’t see the vehicle approaching and could hardly believe she had not seen it. “How could I not have seen it?”
Cheryl suffered three broken ribs in the accident though the Riverton Police Department reported the incident as having no injuries.
Rodgers began an investigation of the intersection with some interesting results.
“Looking through the passenger window, due to the angle of the turning lane and the angle of the highway you see only perhaps 30 yards up the highway. In fairness, it is possible to see much more of the highway through the back passenger side window, but whoever thinks to lean back and look through the back window?” Rodgers said. “I used a stopwatch and performed the mathematical calculations to determine how much time elapsed between when a vehicle first entered my field of vision until it was in the middle of the intersection. To be conservative, I used 45 mph as the speed of the highway vehicle (no one goes that speed) and 40 yards instead of 30 yards as the distance from the vehicle at the intersection to the end of the blind spot. The conservative estimate is that the time between when a vehicle on the highway is just outside your field of vision to when that vehicle arrives in the middle of the intersection is 1.8 seconds.”
The problem is a mix of vehicle speed on West Main, limited vision approaching from the south on Hill Street, and the angles of Hill Street as it intersects with West Main.
“The careful driver will look right, nothing, they’ll look left, nothing. They’ll look right again, nothing, accelerate, and one thousand one, one thousand…bang!” Rodgers said.
Rodgers offers this solution.
“The idea of installing a stoplight or flashing lights is still a good one, but nothing has been done for more than 20 years,” Rodgers said. “Regardless of whether or not a stoplight/warning light is installed, I believe you have to fix the intersection. I believe it would be possible to square the intersection so the drivers coming from the college area would have a 90-degree field of vision. They could then see vehicles approaching on the highway through the front passenger window. I believe this change would dramatically reduce the number of crashes and injuries, and thereby reduce the odds of someone dying or being severely and permanently injured at that intersection. Fewer families would have to deal with the death or severe disability of loved ones.”