Archive for Thursday, June 25, 2009

U.S. 56 intersection draws school board discussion

This stretch of U.S. Highway 56, leading west out of Baldwin City, has been a hot topic among city and school officals. The school board discussed the road and the intersection of U.S. 56 and Lawrence Street at Monday's meeting.

This stretch of U.S. Highway 56, leading west out of Baldwin City, has been a hot topic among city and school officals. The school board discussed the road and the intersection of U.S. 56 and Lawrence Street at Monday's meeting.

June 25, 2009

Despite a relatively short meeting Monday night, Baldwin School Board members voiced their opinions on recent discussions about the intersection of U.S. Highway 56 and Lawrence Street.

It was the joint meeting between the Douglas County Commission and Baldwin City Council on June 10 that had School Board President Alison Bauer upset. During the meeting she expressed her concern about how the school board was perceived as not caring for its students.

“When I saw the reports of the meeting, I was sorry that school district representatives weren’t in attendance at the meeting,” Bauer said. “We weren’t aware of the meeting. We could have let people know that student safety is very important to us. The safety of the students of USD 348 is a paramount concern of the school board. There isn’t anything more important than our students’ safety.”

The intersection in question is on the west edge of town, just past Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center. The highway intersects County Road 11, which is also Lawrence Street in Baldwin City. The intersection is just west of the crest of the hill, which creates line of sight problems for vehicles traveling westbound on the U.S. 56.

In November, the school district patrons passed a bond issue, which included a new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center. The school will be built to the south of the intersection, along Lawrence Street. Increased traffic to the new school has caused concern among city officials. The Kansas Department of Transportation has also looked at the intersection.

“The traffic study that was requested by the city planning commission basically said that intersection would not be affected to the point where they felt it would not adversely be affected by traffic from the school,” Supt. Paul Dorathy said. “The conditions that exist there are pre-existing conditions. KDOT said they would not make the school district fix that intersection, but they did talk about extending the 45 mph speed limit over the hill.”

The district did a traffic study to look at that intersection, along with others that would be affected by the new BESPC. The traffic study indicated the U.S. 56 intersection is adequate.

Another concern is the speed limit on U.S. 56. As of now, it increases from 45 to 60 mph right before BESIC. There is a school zone along BESIC that slows traffic to 45 mph before and after school. However, board members expressed concerns about the speed along that stretch of road.

“It’s almost a matter of personal opinion on whether that intersection is safe or not,” Board Member Scott Lauridsen said. “We’ve had KDOT and the traffic study tell us it is safe. For me, it’s uncomfortable to have the speed limit be 60 mph there, whether we have this new school there or not. In my mind, the fact that a school is going in there is irrelevant. It’s either safe or it’s not.

“I can’t go make them make a change, because I personally think it’s not safe,” he said. “I can’t spend district money to put in a left-turn lane if it’s not based on any professional’s opinion.”

On Monday night, Bauer said she believed that KDOT will be extending the school zone or decreasing the speed limit to 45 mph to the intersection over the hill. She wasn’t certain, but she thought one of those changes might happen.

“I believe that was the recommendation from KDOT,” Bauer said. “If we build the school there, they will extend the 45 mph speed limit over the hill. It seems odd that this is a safety concern and KDOT would raise the speed limit to 60 mph there. The school board 100 percent supports the lowering of the speed limit.”

While no final decision has been made on the intersection on U.S. 56, the school board members expressed their concerns about the speed limit.

“I’d be more comfortable if we extended that school zone on out and made it 45 mph up to that intersection,” Lauridsen said. “Then, in my mind, it becomes safer. That’s just my personal opinion.”

Comments

NanCrisp 5 years, 2 months ago

There is an alternate route to Lawrence Street from High Street. Unlike the BESIC, the PC will be directly accessible from Lawrence Street without ever having to use the Lawrence/US 56 intersection. People taking their children to the new BESPC would be wise to exit/cross US 56 at a safer intersection such as 6th Street (8th, 9th, 10th, 11th) and then go west on High St. to Lawrence St. to get to the school. Even if you have to go a few extra blocks to accomplish this, aren't a few minutes worth the increased safety?

Buses would also be safer going this route, especially if there will be an access road between the two schools. Westbound buses could approach from High/Lawrence and not have to drive on the questionable section of US 56 until after they've dropped off all the kids safe and sound at each building. Eastbound buses could turn right onto Lawrence St., drop off PC kids, then go to the IC via the access road, as well.

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Stacy Napier 5 years, 2 months ago

“When I saw the reports of the meeting, I was sorry that school district representatives weren’t in attendance at the meeting,” Bauer said. “We weren’t aware of the meeting.

You have got to be kidding me. Do the school board members have any education. All the meeting agendas are posted online and ahead of time. They are open meetings that anyone can attend. The agenda packet is posted for the 07/01/09 meeting and they have issues posted up to the 07/07/09 for the county commission. The city is not quite as far ahead, but I get email notifying me when the agenda is posted.

You are elected to a governmental postion and you don't know what is going with other government fractions that involve you.

As for the intersection. The whole plan for the school is about spending money on the fluff (ball field, etc) and not on making a good school. They didn't even want to spend the money to connect the two schools street. If they were really concerned they would have put the money on the infrastructure first then did extras if there was money left over.

It is too bad that when a contractor builds a devlopement he is forced to build streets with sidewalks and feeder roads into it, put in water and sewer mains to get to his develoment, but when the school wants to build the city/ county bows down and says well you don't have to put that in or you don't have to pay for sewer upgrades we will foot the bill.

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