Improving pedestrian safety is WYDOT's long-term goal at Freedom/Big Horn Avenue intersection near Cody Middle School

January 21, 2021

A comprehensive study of transportation needs related to Big Horn Avenue/US14A is the proper path forward for Park County School District No. 6, the City of Cody, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation to provide safe long-term pedestrian highway crossing opportunities near the Cody Middle School, according to WYDOT District Engineer Pete Hallsten of Basin.

"Our immediate proactive action will be to articulate a more-defined plan for vehicle management," Hallsten said. "This plan must include school traffic, vehicular traffic, and pedestrian movements on both sides of the highway so science-based engineering decisions can be made."

Historically, Big Horn Avenue (US14A) has been a major route providing vehicular mobility linking businesses to the City of Cody and surrounding communities. Since the most recent construction of Big Horn Avenue in 2007, major housing developments have been built north of the highway. These developments come with pedestrian mobility needs. Unfortunately, long-range pedestrian mobility planning was not included as part of these extensive housing developments.  

"We will be working to come up with short- and long-term solutions. A comprehensive study must be performed to help all partners -- WYDOT, the City, the School District -- select the correct type of highway crossing at the correct location. This planning effort will ensure the crossing is safe and will function at its inception and in the future as the City of Cody grows," Hallsten said. "Doing 'something' just to do something when it's not the right thing would set pedestrians and drivers on a course for failure."

Last October, WYDOT, City of Cody and school district officials met to discuss issues related to pedestrians and the Freedom/Big Horn Avenue intersection. The outcome of the October 2020 meeting was agreement to conduct an extensive WYDOT-funded traffic study between the intersection of the Big Horn Avenue/US14A and WY120 and the intersection of Big Horn Avenue/US14A and Beacon Hill Road. These efforts are ongoing.

"We don't believe a decision based on safety and good engineering would involve simply painting a crosswalk on the highway, nor simply installing a flashing sign," Hallsten said. "We would be concerned with installing an arbitrary at-grade crossing that would give a false sense of security to a pedestrian, especially with the 5 lanes that a pedestrian must cross, operating speeds of vehicles on Big Horn Avenue, the fact that Freedom and Robert streets don't line up from the south to north, and the east-west orientation of Big Horn Avenue, which results in sight issues with sunrise and sunset."

Any future highway crossing -- at-grade (such as a crossing with a traffic signal) or a grade-separated crossing (such as a pedestrian overpass) -- would come with impacts to adjacent landowners, driving patterns, pedestrians and mobility. Each of these options must be vetted to allow the most appropriate, least invasive and safest crossing for all users.  

Other Big Horn Avenue/Cody traffic information:

-- Big Horn Avenue/US14A is a 5-lane highway, which creates a crossing length of 68 feet;

-- Four-way intersections provide safer street-crossing opportunities for pedestrians, but Freedom and Roberts streets negatively offset each other by 290 feet on each side of Big Horn Avenue. This offset alignment of cross streets creates increased pedestrian/vehicle conflict points for turning vehicles;

-- Robert Street is a major collector street coming from the Trailhead subdivision north of US14A, but Robert Street doesn't have sidewalks to safely move pedestrians toward US14A;

-- In a US14A speed study conducted Oct. 16-17, 2019, 85 percent of traffic drives at 39 mph or less in the 35 mph zone along Big Horn Avenue, and 67 percent of westbound traffic travels in excess of the posted speed limit of 35 mph;

-- US14A is a major local source of commuter traffic between Powell and Cody, with traffic coming from Powell entering Cody with speed limit reductions from 70 mph east of Beacon Hill Road, to 45 mph east of Cooper Lane, to 35 mph about .4 miles east of Robert Street;

-- 2019 average annual daily traffic (AADT is every-day average traffic numbers for 365 days) numbers are 10,495 vehicles per day and 313 trucks between Blackburn Avenue and Cooper Road along Big Horn Avenue. By comparison, AADT traffic numbers between Canyon Avenue and 16th Street on Cody's Sheridan Avenue (US14/16/20) are 13,928 vehicles per day and 432 trucks.

For information about this news release, please contact Cody Beers, WYDOT public relations specialist, at (307) 431-1803.