Archive for Thursday, August 3, 2006

Baldwin Junction deadly again

August 3, 2006

Rural Baldwin City woman Charlene E. Pohl, 84, became the latest victim Tuesday in a string of fatal and near fatal accidents at the Baldwin Junction.

Pohl was westbound on U.S. Highway 56 when she pulled out from the stop sign at the intersection and was struck by a tractor-trailer truck that was northbound on U.S. Highway 59, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

The accident happened shortly after noon Tuesday. Pohl was taken by helicopter ambulance to St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where she later died from her injuries. Just last week, a helicopter ambulance was at the Junction to transport a motorcycle rider after yet another accident at the notoriously dangerous intersection, where the Kansas Department of Transportation has said it will install four-way stop signs and rumble strips to decrease accidents.

"This is the second helicopter in two weeks," said J.T. Schwalm, who works at a car dealership at the Junction. "They have to do something."

KDOT officials said they are still awaiting the custom-made signs for the four-way stop, but said they would be erected as soon as they arrive.

"I wish we could have had them in last week," said Joe Bosak, a KDOT engineer who is in charge of the project. "We could have prevented another terrible accident.

"Right now, we have the solar panels for the flashing lights that will be on the stop signs," said Bosak. "We're waiting on the Kansas Correctional Industries for the signs. They're not your normal signs and are a special order."

Bosak said the stop signs will be 48 inches wide. He also said the stop-ahead signs that will be used also have a special coating that will be easier to see at night.

"The stop ahead signs are specialty items," he said.

Although he doesn't know when the signs will arrive, they will be erected immediately and rumble strips added on both north- and southbound U.S. 59.

"As soon as we have those signs, they're going in," said Bosak. "We don't have a date yet."

Joseph Blubaugh, a KDOT spokesman, said Tuesday's accident at the Junction again highlights the need for the signs.

"Obviously, a crash like that, that I understand is a fatility, it shows the need for something to be done," said Blubaugh. "It definitely makes us more aware."

Blubaugh was quoted in a story two weeks ago in the Signal about how KDOT knows the four-way stop won't end accidents at the Junction, but will lessen the more serious T-bone accidents. Rear-end collisions as a result of drivers being unaware of the new stop signs will likely occur.

"I have to reiterate it's not going to make the intersection accident free," he said. "It's a highway where people don't have the expectation to stop."

Blubaugh also said again that the new multi-million dollar freeway that will replace the present U.S. 59 just east of the present location is the best answer.

"The bottom line is we're anxious to get the new freeway," he said.

The four-way stop at the intersection is the most feasible answer at this time, he said. While a rural roundabout would be a better long-term solution if the new freeway wasn't going to be constructed, it would cost more than $300,000 and isn't feasible at this time.

"It would be a great solution to at least consider if we didn't have the freeway coming in," said Blubaugh.

In addition to last week's motorcycle wreck at the Junction, two young Spring Hill women were killed in April in an accident similar to Tuesday's. The intersection and U.S. 59 have long been known for a higher-than-normal accident rate.

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