What do five major intersections on Victory Road, Amity Road, Happy Valley Road, Midland Boulevard, and Star Road all have in common? According to Nick Lehman, the District Engineer for Nampa Highway District No. 1, they were all sites of high traffic incidents and congestion. To address the issue, the highway district decided in 2018 to install roundabouts, at the average rate of one per year, at each of these intersections.
Roundabouts remain somewhat controversial in the US, mostly due to the learning curve, but they have gained more support as drivers learn to navigate them and experience their benefits firsthand. Used in Europe for hundreds of years, roundabouts reduce issues associated with modern stoplight intersections because they:
- Do not require the cost of operating electricity for traffic lights
- Slow the flow of traffic but increases the efficiency by only requiring drivers to yield rather than completely stop and wait
- Decrease injury and fatal crashes by up to 90% since all drivers are headed in the same direction. With traditional intersections, traffic is both facing and perpendicular which generates conditions conducive to high-speed fatal t-bone crashes and head-on impacts.
- Allow drivers to exit the roundabout in a fluid straight movement without crossing traffic
- Facilitate more safe U-turns
- Minimize emissions and improve fuel usage with less idling vehicles
- Have shorter, safer crosswalks with islands in between traffic lanes
- Allow pedestrians and cyclists to focus on traffic flowing a single direction
- Can be more affordable to maintain and construct
- Continue to allow traffic to flow safely, even during a power outage
- Offer an opportunity to beautify the city
The Nampa Highway District No.1 has built five of the seven current roundabouts in Nampa (City of Nampa constructed the other two). The highway district decided to elevate the look and simplify the maintenance of their roundabouts by featuring steel alloy sculptures that memorialize the valley’s rich history. Nick Lehman, P.E. said, “When we started installing roundabouts we wanted to put in landscaping that was easy to maintain over the long term so we decided to go with the artwork. By using art we get to do something unique as well as tie in some history in the area.”
So far, the four completed metal sculptures have been created by local artists Ken McCall of McCall Studios in Garden City and Advantage Machine and Hydraulic in Nampa. About the process, Ken McCalls shared, “They would give me a topic, I’d start drawing and then submit the design. After approval, the sculptures would take me about three to four months to create. The Highway District would then send out a truck and pick them up.” He added, “The sculptures are built from COR-TEN® which is a steel alloy that rusts to create a protective barrier from atmospheric weathering.” Each sculpture is incredibly detailed and impressive in scale. “They always look so big in my studio,” joked Ken.
Where Can You See the Roundabouts with Sculptures?
Victory Road & Robinson Boulevard Roundabout
Photo Courtesy of Nick Lehman, P.E.
Centerpiece Sculpture: Guffey Bridge Replica, 2018
Artist: Ken McCall of McCall Studios in Garden City, ID
Historical Importance: Constructed in 1897, Guffey Bridge served to transfer precious metals mined in Silver City across the Snake River to Nampa where the ores could be smelted. Guffey Bridge shares its location with the Historical Celebration Park, near Melba, Idaho, which is home to petroglyphs dating back 12,000 years. It is the only “Parker-Through-Truss” railroad bridge in Idaho.
Robinson Road & Amity Road Roundabout
Photo Courtesy of Ken McCall
Centerpiece Sculpture: Boise & Interurban Railway Trolley Car Replica, 2019
Artist: Ken McCall of McCall Studios in Garden City
Historic Importance: During the early 1900’s Boise, Eagle, Star, Middleton, Nampa, and Caldwell were connected by electric streetcar systems that were eventually known as the Interurban. One system ran through the north side and another ran through the south side of the valley. While the trolleys didn’t make much money they served an important role in transporting people throughout the valley (including students to the College of Idaho in Caldwell), encouraging real estate development, shipping produce, and expanding electricity into areas. Lake Lowell and Pierce Park were built to entice people to ride the Interurban railway and spread growth.
Happy Valley Road & Victory Road Roundabout
Centerpiece Sculpture: 1903 Wright Flyer Replica, 2020
Artist: Advantage Machine and Hydraulic in Nampa
Historic Importance: The Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, flew the Wright Flyer in Kitty Hawk, NC on December 17, 1903. While the flight lasted only a few seconds it ignited the world’s obsession with the possibilities of flight. Located near the Warhawk Air Museum and landing strip at Nampa Municipal Airport (established in 1929), this roundabout and installation is a nod to Nampa’s local aviation history.
Midland Boulevard & Ustick Road
Centerpiece Sculpture: 1906 Canyon County Courthouse Replica, 2021
Artist: Ken McCall of McCall Studios in Garden City
Historic Importance: The second of three courthouses built to serve Canyon County is memorialized in the sculpture located at Midland Blvd. and Ustick Rd. Built in 1906, the Canyon County Courthouse was designed by Wayland & Fennel for about $62,000. It featured a dome, tower clock, and bell. It was demolished in the 1970s to make room for the current courthouse.
Cherry Lane & Star Road Roundabout, 2021
Centerpiece Sculpture:Horse drawn grader pulled by two draft horses, ETA Summer 2022)
Artists: Travis Emmen of Emmen Metal in Mill Spring, North Carolina
Historic Importance: Known nationwide for its famous potatoes, Idaho is also the United State’s top producer of peas and barley and the second top producer for sugar beets, prunes, plums, and mint. Agriculture is deeply rooted in the Canyon County community and has provided a sustainable lifestyle for generations.
New residents have flocked to Canyon County and surrounding suburbs in search of affordable living, a manageable commute, cultural diversity, fantastic education opportunities, and a similarly excellent quality of life. As a result, the City of Nampa’s population has grown exponentially over the last few years. According to the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS) there was an increase of almost 24,000 people in Ada and Canyon counties in 2020! To keep up with the expansion, the Nampa Highway District No. 1 has five more roundabouts in design and has begun the early planning phase for another four.
If you find yourself in Nampa, Idaho, we highly recommend you detour your route to see them!