Archive for Thursday, July 26, 2007

KDOT to raise speed limit on U.S. 56 to 60 mph

July 26, 2007

While most motorists will be pleased to hear the speed limit is being raised on U.S. Highway 56 to 60 mph, Tom Mundinger isn't one of them.

Mundinger, principal at Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center, was shocked and displeased to hear that the speed limit will be going up in front of his school, which is fronted by U.S. 56. The Kansas Department of Transportation hadn't informed him.

"That's the first I'm aware of that information. I haven't heard anything about that," said Mundinger. "If they are actually going to raise the speed limit in front of the school to 60, I'm just appalled.

"I can't believe anybody with any common sense in their right mind would raise the speed limit coming into town in front of a school to 60 mph," he said. "Frankly, it should be reduced instead of raised, especially coming from the top of that hill coming down in front of the school."

The area is heavily traveled, but especially during the school year when parents and school buses are dropping off students to the school. The hill to the west of the school on U.S. 56 creates a blind spot for motorists unaware of the approaching school and has long been feared to cause accidents, both Mundinger and Police Chief Mike McKenna said.

KDOT Spokesman Kim Qualls initially said Tuesday the speed limit was going up wherever it says 55 and there wouldn't be a buffer zone.

"The speed limit is going to go up to 60 mph," said Qualls. "It will probably be a month. The signs haven't been made."

The change will encompass the four-county area of Lyon, Osage, Douglas and Johnson counties where U.S. 56 passes through. Qualls said it is to make the entire stretch uniform and is the result of a traffic study done after requests were made to raise the limit.

"All of U.S. 56 has been addressed," she said. "The speed limit is already 60 where it starts (in Chase County)."

On Wednesday, however, she said that KDOT has been discussing the situation with the city. Speed limits are subject to whether the area is in the county or the city. Currently, that stretch isn't in the city limits.

"There is discussion between the city and KDOT about annexing that stretch and possibly addressing the situation," said Qualls. "The buffer zone is being considered. KDOT is sensitive to schools."

City Administrator Jeff Dingman said there are no active discussions going on between the city and KDOT, but the subject has been broached.

"We've had some contacts with them about the speed limit in front of the school and I know I've referred a few residents to make contact with them as well," said Dingman. "Annexing that stretch is an option that would help, but it hasn't progressed much further than the discussion stage at this point."

McKenna said it's certainly something that should be done.

"I think that's something the (city) council will have to address and I'm sure the safety committee will address it," said McKenna. "Hopefully, it's something we can all come to an agreement on with KDOT.

"That area has always concerned me, especially with the growth in that area and the school," he said. "The safety committee will be meeting Monday and I'm sure this will be a subject of discussion. We want to make the roads as safe as possible."

McKenna is also concerned about the stretch of U.S. 56 entering Baldwin City to the east because of housing developments in the area that feed on to the highway.

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