Honk if you love Scouting: Eagle Scout’s service project solves city’s traffic problem

We adults like to complain about heavy traffic, poorly designed roads and ever-lengthening commutes.

One 15-year-old Boy Scout has actually done something about it.

Skyler Chapman is barely old enough for a Utah learner’s permit. But for his Eagle Scout service project, the Lehi, Utah, teen came up with a plan to shorten commute times by up to 30 minutes.

This isn’t just the story of a teenager helping his community solve a problem. It’s a reminder that Eagle Scout service projects don’t have to involve building something permanent to leave a lasting impact. (I’ve written about that topic before.)

Recognizing the problem

The city of Lehi, about 30 miles down the interstate from Salt Lake City, has seen its population skyrocket over the past decade.

That has left many residential roads overloaded — especially at the intersection of 2100 North and 2300 West.

During rush hour at this intersection, the backup can last 20 to 30 minutes.

In cities like Los Angeles or New York, where traffic is notoriously bad, 20 to 30 minutes doesn’t seem that bad. But in 61,000-person Lehi, that kind of slowdown isn’t normal.

Studying the situation

“Everyone wanted something to change,” Skyler told KTSU-TV (Fox 13). “It’s just that no one knew how to do it.”

The first step was figuring out what was causing the backup. For this, Skyler used a combination of technology and sneakers-on-the-ground reporting.

Over two weeks, he studied the flow of traffic. He directed a group of volunteers as they counted cars, distributed fliers and talked to drivers. The fliers sent commuters to an online survey where they could share feedback about the traffic situation.

Skyler then captured aerial footage from a drone and time-lapse videos from a DSLR camera.

Here’s what he learned:

  • Traffic is backed up for miles with residents stuck in their neighborhoods.
  • Two lanes become three as an equal number of drivers want to turn right and go straight from the same right-hand lane.

Devising the solution

Skyler analyzed the data and came up with a plan, doing what professional traffic engineers apparently could not.

He suggested adding another lane of traffic and a designated right-hand turn lane to help ease the congestion. He also suggested adding signage to remind drivers not to block intersections — a practice he determined was adding to the congestion.

Skyler took his plan to the Lehi City Council in May.

The presentation, seen in the video at the end of this post, “just blew us away,” said council member Paul Hancock.

The Utah Department of Transportation was apparently impressed with Skyler’s data, too. It approved the change and, in mid-September, opened the new lane.

Traffic at that intersection now? Non-existent.

It’s worth repeating one more time: Skyler Chapman is just 15 years old.

Skyler, a member of Team 1420 of Lehi, Utah, part of the Utah National Parks Council, earned Scouting’s highest honor on July 10, 2017.

Skyler’s video

20 Comments

  1. Great job, Skyler. Based on my understanding of how traffic contributes to pollution, more efficient travel for vehicles reduces pollution, so there’s an environmental benefit, as well.

  2. From one engineer (and Eagle Scout) to the next one of the future…GREAT JOB!!!
    You’re a problem solver if I ever saw one.

  3. Excellent job! Love to see the youth and scouts involved at this level and the city supporting them. Please send him to Layton, UT… they have the biggest bungled up traffic mess I’ve ever seen… they really need some practical help.

  4. Well done Skyler, hopefully he doesn’t follow the lead of the last century of American traffic engineers who have built wider lanes, increased speeds on all roads, increased automobile congestion on all roads, reduced safety for all road users and increased fatalities, reduced viability for public transport and active modes of and effectively delivered the global car culture that is slowly destroying cites in America and around the rest of the world. Hopefully he doesn’t do that because America has managed to do transport worse than just about any other developed nation in the world. Only the US could have 20-30 minute pile-ups in a city of 61,000 people.

  5. I’ve driven through Lehi three times in my life. Each time I wondered why in the world is the traffic so bad in a town this size (This was 10 years ago). Now I know it was because the right Eagle Scout hadn’t come along yet. Way to go!

  6. I’ll be in contact with his unit; I have a letter of congratulations coming his way. It may be too late for his COH, but especially if he has an interest in a career in transportation, I’m sue it’s a letter he will cherish.

  7. In Virginia they would ignored his suggestions, hired a firm to conduct a three year, million dollar study that came to the same conclusion, and claim there wasn’t any money left in the budget to correct the problem.

  8. If he was even smarter he would have told people to live closer to work and stop car commuting! Carburbs are the poisoning America.

  9. I go through that intersection every day on the way to work. It is much easier to navigate safely now. Thank you, Skyler!

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