Archive for Thursday, August 2, 2007

Speed limit sense II

August 2, 2007

As displeased as we were last week with the Kansas Department of Transportation, that has turned to equal pleasure this week. For the first time that we can recall, KDOT did the right thing with a poor decision.

A week ago, we -- along with Tom Mundinger, Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center principal -- were lamenting KDOT's decision to raise the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 on the stretch of U.S. Highway 56 where the school is located. It just didn't make sense.

With the hill and bad intersection to the west of the school already making the stretch of road dangerous during peak school times, it was ridiculous to raise the speed limit. If anything, it should be lowered.

But, KDOT officials -- asked specifically if there would be a buffer zone coming into Baldwin City with the speed limit change -- said no. Wherever the speed limit is currently 55, it will be 60 we were told.

It caused an outrage and rightfully so. We've been lucky -- knock on wood -- that there hasn't been an accident along the stretch of highway especially since the elementary school was built there. We won't hit the hornet's nest of why the school was located there. It wouldn't do any good. It's there.

But, we can -- and did -- raise our voices against boosting the speed limit on that stretch of road. So did many others.

Evidently, it did some good. First, KDOT officials sent an e-mail to city and school district officials Friday saying that Safe Routes to School program members would be in touch with them regarding the stretch of road. The e-mail alluded to changes that would ease the situation.

We were relieved. Then, on Tuesday, KDOT sent out an e-mail press release stating that raising the speed limit on U.S. 56 had been postponed. KDOT was going to take a closer look at schools along the highway before implementing the change.

We applaud the move. KDOT officials will be here Thursday to meet with city and school leaders. That's fabulous. We hope they listen. Simply lowering the speed limit in front of BESIC to 45 mph isn't enough. There needs to be warning flashers ahead of the hill to the west. Otherwise, the speed limit change won't accomplish much.

For people familiar with the road, it's not a problem. But, for first timers through Baldwin City, they simply don't know about the school. They need to be warned properly.

Although KDOT denies that the outcry from Baldwin had anything to do with its change of heart, we don't buy it. In fact, we don't understand it. Why KDOT won't say "we listened" is beyond us. It would do a whole lot of good.

And, we hope those KDOT officials listen again when they're here. We've only asked for what makes sense.

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