Douglas County commissioners agree to help fix Baldwin City traffic hazard

October 21, 2010

— Douglas County commissioners are willing to pitch in as much as $60,000 to help fix a traffic woe just west of Baldwin City on U.S. Highway 56.

In August the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center opened south of U.S. 56 on the east side of East 1600 Road. The intersection, which is on a hill and has poor sight distance, has turned dangerous for those drivers heading westbound on U.S. 56 and turning left onto East 1600 Road.

“There’s typically 15 to 20 cars lined up at 8 in the morning. I’ve witnessed some near-misses myself,” Baldwin Mayor Ken Wagner said. “In my mind, there is no question we have an issue here.”

On Wednesday night, Douglas County proposed a plan that would extend westward by 640 feet U.S. 56’s existing three-lane highway. The extension would include a left-hand turn lane at the East 1600 Road intersection.

According to a study done by engineering consultants, the extension would cost about $550,000. Douglas County Public Works Director Keith Browning told the commission that the state would cover the majority of the cost.

As part of the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Corridor Management Construction Project program, the state agency pays for construction costs up to $1 million or 90 percent of the total project, whichever is less. Local governments cover the rest.

The amount doesn’t include the design of the project, the purchase of right of way or the relocation of utilities. The cost to local governments is estimated to be around $100,000, Browning said and noted there would be enough money in the budget to cover the county’s share.

The commissioners agreed to help pay for the project as long as Baldwin City and the school district would cover at least 40 percent of the local share.

“We are talking about a school. I have no hesitancy. I support whatever we need to do tonight to move forward,” Commissioner Jim Flory said.

Earlier this week the Baldwin City Council discussed the project, but did not vote to support it.

“There is a safety risk here. I think as a mayor, our council missed an opportunity to get some state help in correcting a problem,” Wagner said.

With the county’s support, Wagner hopes the city council will agree to help pay for the project.

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