After an “alarming increase” in traffic deaths this year, Ada County leaders vow to redesign street layouts to make them safer for all.
“This is one of the deadliest years on our roads in Ada County history, and it has to stop,” Ada County Highway District Commissioner Alexis Pickering said at a Thursday news conference.
The district has recorded one pedestrian death in the county almost every month this year for a total of eight, Pickering said, far more than last year, when the district recorded no pedestrian deaths until October. Pickering said it will take years to “undo and update our infrastructure.”
Mayor Lauren McLean called the deaths “thoroughly preventable.”
At one intersection downtown — 11th Street and State Street — four people have been hit by cars already this year.
A total of five pedestrians and cyclists were killed last year, according to data from the Idaho Transportation Department.
In early August, a Boise teenager on a skateboard was killed by a truck while crossing the street in a crosswalk on 16th Street.
A pedestrian and a bicyclist were killed in May in Boise after collisions underneath the Connector and in West Boise, on Eagle Road.
In January, a 79-year-old man was killed by a pickup truck at the intersection of West State Street and 11th Street, near the YMCA.
More than 3,800 crashes have happened so far in Ada County this year, 14 of which have been fatal, according to data from the Idaho Transportation Department. Forty-four crashes have involved bicycles and 28 have involved pedestrians.
There were 101 bicycle-involved crashes in Ada County in 2022, one of which was fatal, according to data from the Idaho Transportation Department. There were 68 pedestrian-involved crashes last year in the county, four of which were fatal. A fifth of fatal crashes involved pedestrians, and nearly 30% of pedestrian crashes resulted in a serious injury or death.
Overall, 122 people died in fatal crashes in Ada County last year, according to the data. There were a total of 33,231 crashes.
In a news release, McLean’s spokesperson Maria Weeg said the Treasure Valley has seen “an alarming increase in serious injury and fatal crashes.”
This year, the Ada County Highway District began altering walk signals at intersections, allowing pedestrians a head start over vehicle traffic to make them easier for drivers to see. Over the next several years, the roads agency plans to make changes to every intersection with a traffic light.
ACHD controls almost all roads in Ada County — including those within cities — except federal and state highways controlled by the Idaho Transportation Department.
At the news conference, Pickering said ACHD is creating an internal safety team to better assess crashes and whether they require reengineering the streetscape. The agency plans to spend $22 million on bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the coming fiscal year.
With the defeat of former ACHD Commissioner Mary May last year, most of the current commissioners campaigned on supporting multi-modal transportation.
The Idaho Legislature this year passed a law limiting how road agencies can spend their funding, requiring that dollars be spent “primarily” for cars. A second law only contemplates “congestion mitigation” as related to cars, leaving out potential bicycle or pedestrian improvements.
Pickering said that law has definitely impacted us.
“Our road system works best when we’re serving all users,” Pickering said. “If we’re not making safety the priority for all users, we’re actually making it dangerous for everyone.”