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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

US 95 Flaggers Helping Significant Number Of People

We've been hearing rumblings from the community recently about flaggers stationed at intersections on US 95 to help pedestrians through the maze of construction. Apparently some people think it is a waste of taxpayer money.

I checked with Idaho Transportation Department's Public Involvement Coordinator, Barbara Babic, who said this is a unique solution to a big challenge. During construction projects on busy roads in the past, ITD received serious complaints about ADA compliance. Pedestrians, and particularly people with handicaps, were having a hard time negotiating ramps and accessing the buttons that provide the 'walk' signal.

The project on 95 is a large inlay/overlay project that traverses many intersections. Design and construction engineers worked hard to come up with a solution to accommodate pedestrians and comply with ADA during construction. But building temporary ramps, detours, and re-aligning ped buttons was unrealistic from a schedule and cost perspective. Early estimates just to install the temporary accommodations were over $320,000.

Instead, ITD decided to use flaggers at the intersections to assist people across the road. Nine intersections are being flagged during the day for 5 weeks.

This solution cost less than half of installing temporary accomodations, at $135,000. At this time, ITD doesn't have numbers for how many people have used the flaggers but say it's a significant number, with a mall and school in the area. Several of those assists have been to help people in wheelchairs cross the road.

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Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Kootenai County, Idaho. Federal law requires urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people to have an MPO. KMPO was formed in 2003, to provide coordinated transportation planning within Kootenai county for the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and the Coeur d'Alene tribe.

KMPO's Board of Directors oversees KMPO for Kootenai County, ID. KMPO's Executive Director and Staff are responsible for day-to-day operational and administrative needs.