Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

Junction stops now required

August 10, 2006

It's finally official. The four-way stop at the Baldwin Junction was finished Tuesday afternoon after several delays.

"About an hour ago, the four-way stop was in," Joe Blubaugh, Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman, said about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. "It's up and running. We just got it finalized, getting the stop bar down. I got a call about 2:30. I think we're there.

"We'll see what happens," said Blubaugh. "I think the first week will be critical."

KDOT had planned to install the four-way stop since early July. It was expected to be in place the last week of July or by mid August. However, last week's fatality accident at the intersection of U.S. Highways 59 and 56 hastened the efforts.

Rural Baldwin resident Charlene E. Pohl, 84, was killed Aug. 1 around noon when she pulled into the intersection after stopping at the stop sign on U.S. 56 and was struck by a truck headed northbound on U.S. 59. It was the latest in a string of accidents at the intersection, including a double-fatality in April when two Spring Hill teens were killed in much the same way as Pohl.

Complaints to KDOT prompted the project to be started Friday at the Junction. KDOT crews installed the stop signs on north- and southbound U.S. 59, as well as stop ahead signs and warning flashers. However, the rumble strips couldn't be installed until Monday and prompted officials to cover the signage until the warning devices could be installed.

KDOT traffic engineers watched the intersection for about an hour Friday and didn't like how the traffic flow was going, Blubaugh said. Also, attorneys for KDOT sent a memo that the four-way stop shouldn't be used until the rumble strips were installed because of liability issues.

"It was a combination of both," said Blubaugh. "My boss was there and watching it and said 'don't do it.' There were also warnings from the attorneys. It was a combination of things. I don't disagree with it."

KDOT has said the four-way stop won't end accidents at the intersection, but should reduce the deadly T-bone accidents that killed Pohl, the Spring Hill teens and others. Rear-end accidents as a result of the stop signs on U.S. 59 are more likely while people get used to the change.

"Right now, no news is good news," said Blubaugh. "We hope nothing happens, but we can't kid ourselves that the potential isn't there. I'm more worried about those that have used it for years."

Marvin Jardon, a long-time resident of the area, isn't sold on the signs.

"I think it's going to be an awful mess deciding who's got the right-of-way," Jardon said. "Others have said it's going to take awhile before drivers from the east or west (on U.S. 56) trust anybody to stop from the north or south."

KDOT has said from the beginning that it's a stop-gap measure until the new U.S. 59 is built to the east of the present highway. It will be a four-lane freeway, but work is a long way off from starting on it, much less its completion.

"We hope this is the answer until the new highway is built," Blubaugh said.

He has also said that a roundabout would have been a long-term answer, but was cost prohibitive in light of the multi-million dollar freeway being built.

"If we didn't have the new 59 coming in, I'm sure the roundabout would be the answer," he said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.