Archive for Wednesday, October 8, 2003

A fatality waiting to happen’

Intersection concerns Baldwin residents

October 8, 2003

It came as no surprise to JoAnn Elliott, or most Baldwin City residents, when a serious injury accident occurred at the intersection of U.S. Highway 56 and Lawrence St. on Sept. 26.

"It's just a fatality waiting to happen," Elliott said of the intersection, which is at the top of a hill with highway traffic cruising at speeds of at least 55 mph. "The state needs to address that intersection now."

The Sept. 26 accident involved an eastbound SUV driven by 21-year-old Baker University student Benjamin Schroeder and a westbound semi-tractor trailer driven by Clint Burkdoll, 33, Ottawa. According to the Douglas County Sheriff's Department report, the accident occurred when Burkdoll's semi jackknifed as it reached the top of the hill, went across the center line and collided with Schroeder's vehicle.

Schroeder was taken by helicopter ambulance to the University of Kansas Medical Center with a fractured left hip and a cut to his head that required five stitches. He was released from the hospital Sept. 30 and is back on campus. He could not be reached for comment.

"He came back Saturday," said Nancy Richard, BU's associate dean of students. "He's on crutches and will be for four weeks."

Elliott, who lives near the intersection and said she lives in fear of it everyday, was surprised when she found out Schroeder's injuries weren't worse. She was driving westbound at the time of the 4 p.m. accident and the semi-trailer was right behind her. She made a turn off the highway just in time to see the accident happen.

"I'm so pleased to hear the young man is going to be okay," she said. "I can't believe he's already back in school. I've been in a state of shock since the accident happened.

"It's just terrible," Elliott said of the intersection. "I absolutely hate it. I make that route seven times a day. That intersection is so dangerous. You can jump out there and hope someone doesn't jump over the hill and hit you."

She believes the Kansas Department of Transportation needs to lower the speed limit along the stretch of highway from Baldwin on west past the intersection to 35 mph. Elliott has known for some time there was going to be a fatality accident there and was surprised that the Sept. 26 wreck wasn't it.

"It's only a matter of time," she said. "I get so upset about that intersection. I have to plan my day around whether I want to go through that intersection or not. If I don't, I have to go four miles out of my way.

"I can't believe the state said to leave it at 55 mph," said Elliott. "The speed limit needs to be dropped to 35 all the way past Hilltop (Veterinary Clinic)."

She's upset enough that she'd like to see a petition signed by as many people in Baldwin as possible to present to the state requesting the speed limit change.

"The community has grown and I don't feel like the state has taken that into account," she said. "Everyone here in town knows the dangers of the roads."

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