Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2006

Four-way stop slated for Junction

July 13, 2006

If the people want a four-way stop at the accident-plagued Baldwin Junction intersection, they can have it.

The Kansas Department of Transportation announced Tuesday a preliminary plan that would add stop signs on north and south bound U.S. Highway 59. Stop signs are already in place on east and west bound U.S. Highway 56.

Those preliminary plans call for the signs to be placed at the end of July or early August. But, Joe Blubaugh, KDOT public affairs spokesman, said it's not quite a done deal.

"The only way it won't go in is if there's a huge outcry by the public that doesn't want it," said Blubaugh. "I don't expect that to happen."

Neither does Jeff Dingman, city administrator for Baldwin City, who is also concerned about the intersection.

"I typically try to avoid it, just because of the number of accidents. It's definitely something that I'm glad they've studied and warranted a change be made," Dingman said.

Blubaugh also said the four-way stop is just a temporary fix until the new U.S. 59 is built.

"Absolutely, it's an interim fix," said Blubaugh. "If it weren't for the new highway coming in, it would have been a candidate for a rural roundabout.

"But, because of the cost it wasn't considered," he said of the intersections now in vogue where cars enter a circular path, such as the roundabout on K-68 near Paola. "In this case, it didn't make good fiscal sense."

Instead, oversized stop signs will be placed on both sides of U.S. 59 with flashing red lights above and below them. There will also be three sets of rumble strips added to the approaching lanes, as well as stop ahead signs with flags on them.

Blubaugh admits that the intersection will still have safety problems, especially with rear-end collisions on U.S. 59, especially until people get used to the changes.

"That's a definite concern," he said. "We've done this at other locations. There is a little more chance for rear-end collisions."

The idea, he said, is to cut down on the more deadly side-impact collisions, which the intersection is famous for. Those usually occur when a motorist from U.S. 56 pulls out in front of a vehicle traveling on U.S. 59 at a high rate of speed. Most recently, two Spring Hill teenagers were killed when that scenario occurred April 29.

Still, accidents will continue, he said.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say there's a possibility of increased accidents," Blubaugh said of the rear-end versions.

However, the four-way stop is being tried as a result of public outcry.

"This is in direct response to concerns raised from area residents," he said.

While the intersection has long been known for accidents, the most recent KDOT study shows a steady increase since 2002. From 2002 to 2005, there have been 36 accidents, with 17 involving injury, but no fatalities.

A $214.3 million plan is in the works to expand U.S. 59 to a four-lane freeway between Lawrence and Ottawa. Currently, the four-lane road is scheduled to open in Franklin County in 2009 and in Douglas County in 2011.

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