The accident underscored many locals' concerns for the safety of students who walk, bicycle or drive to and from the new Powell High School, located on Road 8 and Seventh Street.
Because of the foreseen need for that work, the Wyoming Department of Transportation already has completed plans for improving the intersection. The project tentatively is scheduled to go to bid next month, though that could be delayed because the department still needs to purchase additional property for rights of way.
Todd Frost, district engineer for the department in Cody, said project plans include extending the five-lane highway past the intersection with Road 8 and adding turning lanes on each side of the highway on Road 8. The turning lanes will extend 500 feet to the north and the south of U.S. 14-A, he said.
New crossing arms by the railroad crossing also will be installed.
On Monday, the Powell City Council and Mayor Scott Mangold approved an agreement with WYDOT to lease land during the construction phase and to sell land the department needs to complete the project. The agreement calls for WYDOT to pay the city around $4,600.
Though the plans don't call for installing traffic lights at the intersection, the $2.3-million project includes laying conduit under both roadways on each side of the intersection to run wires through if traffic lights are installed there in the future.
Construction is tentatively planned for next summer, though work to replace the culvert over the Garland Canal on Road 8 would begin this winter, he said.
The project also calls for curb, gutter and sidewalk to be placed on the north side of U.S. 14-A in front of Homesteader Park, he said.
But plans do not include putting a sidewalk on either side of Road 8, he said.
While the accident prompted calls for putting a sidewalk along the road, Cody Beers, public involvement specialist for the department in Riverton, said the project, which has been in the planning stages for years, is too far in the process to change it now.
“I believe our plans are pretty much final for that project,” he said.
While concerned for Elzey's safety, Beers said having a sidewalk along Road 8 would not have prevented that accident, which was due to human error.
“The unfortunate thing is, I'm not sure how we would enhance anything to prevent that. Sidewalks are not bicycle paths,” he said. “If she did (ride) up beside the truck, the trucker probably never saw her.”
Beers said a sidewalk or bike path possibly could be added later using federal grant funds. The department offers TEAL grants (Transportation Enhancement Activities-Local) to help pay for off-system transportation needs, and another grant program for on-system needs.
“We tapped into both of those programs to build the bicycle paths west of Powell on 14-A,” he said.
But Powell City Engineer Sean Christensen said the city already has a TEAL grant for rest-stop work at Homesteader Park and can't apply for another one until that project is finished. He noted that both those grant programs require local matching money.
Another possibility, Beers said, is applying for federal funding through the Safe Routes to School Program. That program requires no local match, and the Oct. 7 accident would almost certainly strengthen an application to add a bicycle path or other improvements to the intersection, he said.
Christensen said Park County School District No. 1 officials already were in the process of looking at applying for that grant before the accident occurred.
District superintendent Kevin Mitchell said he has been talking to Police Chief Tim Feathers about applying for the Safe Routes to School program. They are looking at the different components of the program and trying to decide on the best way to apply for the grant, he said.
“We're looking at a planning piece and a construction piece,” he said.
As envisioned, the planning piece would pay to develop a district-wide plan to provide safe routes to and from schools.
“We're going to look at hiring somebody to do a district-wide plan for foot and bike traffic, and apply for a grant every year to meet those needs.”
But Mitchell said the district's top priority for construction now is putting sidewalks around the new Southside Elementary School.
He said the Safe Routes to School grant is geared primarily toward elementary school students and toward pedestrians, more than students who ride their bikes to school.
Mitchell said he also has discussed the plans for improving the intersection at U.S. 14-A and Road 8 with WYDOT district engineer Shelby Carlson. He noted that the last traffic and pedestrian counts at the intersection were completed before the new high school opened in August.
Mitchell said he was hopeful plans could be changed to include safety features for pedestrians and bicyclists on Road 8.
Carlson said Wednesday it's too late to change those plans now.
But she agreed with Mitchell that more study of traffic for vehicle drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists is needed.
“We will do a preliminary pedestrian/bicycle study to see how many people are trying to use that, to see if there is something we need to do before we widen the intersection,” she said. “Obviously, we will have to do another study after the widening.”
In the meantime, Christensen said he's received at least one call asking about adding crosswalks at the intersection.
“We'll try to put something in there,” he said. “I'm not sure if it will be the city or WYDOT.”