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