With the click of a small switch, Rathdrum fired up the city’s first stoplights Thursday.
“Are you guys ready?” Rathdrum city Councilwoman Beverly Young asked, reaching into the lights’ control box.
“People used to gripe about the growth, but this is part of it,” observed police Lt. Alex Carrington. Behind him, two boys on bicycles won the dubious distinction of being the first to ignore the “Don’t Walk” sign.
“This is a big deal for Rathdrum. It means to a lot of people that it’s time to move,” joked Young. “Growth is here.”
“None of us likes to see traffic lights, but this has become a hazard,” said state Sen. Clyde Boatright, R-Rathdrum.
The Idaho Transportation Department spent $93,000 to put up lights at two intersections of state highways 41 and 53.
Before the lights, drivers faced stop signs and had to wait for a break in traffic. More than 13,000 cars per day pass through the intersections, Carrington said.
“We have so many buses that come through this intersection,” said Lakeland School District Superintendent Bob Jones. “It’s tough for them to get through because they’re such large vehicles.”
Officials were anxious to get the lights turned on before school starts Tuesday, he said.
“Kind of close to the wire, but we did it,” he said.
Drivers didn’t seem to mind the lights, which officials said likely will ease traffic congestion. Sensors in the road detect cars. The green light lasts about 20 seconds.
“No problem,” said Tony Lamanna of Priest River, Idaho, in town to do some shopping. “There’s getting to be too much traffic here. I’m glad they put them in.”
“It was needed,” said Kathi Burleson, at the Bean Barn espresso stand. “It was hard to turn there.”
“There’s a few people that don’t like it, but Rathdrum’s grown so much that we need it,” said Don Donnenwirth, working at the Korner Stop mini-mart. “I’m all for it.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo