Archive for Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Traffic light on the way?

January 23, 2002

It's not unusual for Mark Eldridge to have to wait at the intersection of U.S. Highway 56 and Sixth Street during certain times in the mornings and afternoons.

Eldridge, assistant vice president at Kansas State Bank, which is located at the northwest corner of U.S. Highway 56 and Sixth Street, has to navigate the intersection daily.

He said there are times when traffic gets more congested, making it harder make it across the highway.

"At times, particularly after school's out and then when people are coming back to Baldwin after work between 5 and 5:30," he said. "Also around the time school starts between 8 and 8:15."

The situation will only get worse, City Administrator Larry Paine said, especially if the proposed Santa Fe Market and McDonald's is built on the northeast corner of the intersection.

Paine said he thinks one solution that would help solve problems at the intersection would be the installation of a traffic signal.

"We've been looking at a stop light there for the past three years," he said.

But getting a traffic signal installed is easier said than done.

Brian Gower, traffic engineer at the Bureau of Traffic Engineering, said before a traffic signal is installed, a traffic study, which counts the number of vehicles that enters the intersection in 24 hours, must be completed.

Gower said the Kansas Department of Transportation has done three traffic studies in five years at the U.S. Highway 56 and Sixth Street intersection, the last one completed in May of 1998, but found one was not needed.

"Each time, KDOT never recommended a signal at Sixth Street," he said.

Several criteria, including volume of traffic and pedestrian use, are looked at to decide if a signal is warranted, he said.

If a signal was warranted, Gower said the cost for installing one could be between $60,000 and $90,000, or even more, depending on the type of the signal. He said usually, if a signal is found to be needed, KDOT would pay for 80 percent of the cost with the city paying for the remainder of it.

In the last traffic study, Gower said KDOT recommended a traffic signal, but not at Sixth Street.

"The recommendation we made in that study was that there should be no traffic signal at Sixth, but a traffic signal at Fourth instead," he said.

The intersection of U.S Highway 56 and Fourth Street, he said, had a lot of pedestrian traffic trying to cross the highway, most of it coming from the schools, which is why KDOT believed a signal should be installed.

"The city's not interested in a signal there," he said. "In the past, the city has only wanted a signal at Sixth."

Gower said if more building occurs at the Sixth Street intersection, another traffic study could be completed.

"We would wait until the area is fully developed before we did another study," he said.

A traffic study was done in the past couple of months by the Santa Fe Market developer, but Gower said KDOT would eventually have to review the study.

"Because it's a state highway, KDOT would end up reviewing it and offering comments on it," he said. "The bottom line, KDOT will be involved in it one way or another."

Eldridge said he's not sure if a signal is the answer for the traffic problems right now.

"I have mixed feelings on it," he said. "A traffic light would slow things down and could cause a bottleneck, but it would also give people the chance to get out on 56.

"But my opinion might change completely after the addition of the convenience store at the corner," he said.

But whatever solution KDOT and the city decide on, Eldridge said drivers play a big key when it comes to navigating the intersection.

"Whether you have a light in there or not, people are still going to have to be careful at that intersection," he said.

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