Archive for Thursday, July 29, 2010

Changes being discussed to improve safety on K-32

July 29, 2010

A revamped version of an old intersection three miles south of a new Kansas Turnpike interchange is in line for some potential changes intended to improve safety.

The intersection of Leavenworth County Road 1 and Kansas Highway 32 doesn’t qualify for installation of traffic signals, but state traffic engineers are recommending larger stop signs, additional warning signs and use of reflective sheeting to help improve the signs’ visibility.

The goal: Ensure that drivers approaching K-32 on County Road 1 have the best chance to see that they must stop at the intersection.

“Any impact that we’re trying to have is to improve safety,” said Sara Peters, a traffic engineering associate in the Bureau of Transportation Safety and Technology at the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The recommendations are awaiting consideration by KDOT’s area engineer and district engineer to determine exactly which changes might be appropriate for the intersection, she said. The recommendations were forwarded to the engineers earlier this month.

Many of the recommendations already had been suggested by Leavenworth County commissioners and staffers, following an incident in which two women died in a Memorial Day crash at the intersection.

And on July 16, a Lawrence woman driving south on the county road ran the stop sign and collided with a car heading east on K-32. The Lawrence woman suffered minor injuries, while the driver of the other car was taken from the scene by air ambulance and hospitalized for more serious injuries.

Heather Morgan, Leavenworth County administrator, said the county long had been concerned about traffic on County Road 1. The road was rebuilt in conjunction with the turnpike’s new Tonganoxie/Eudora interchange.

Work at the intersection included longer left-turn lanes for waiting traffic. Overall, the rebuilt portion of County Road 1 is designed to handle more traffic and allow drivers to have improved sight distances.

“With the opening of that interchange, we’re looking at all the traffic along County Road 1 to see how traffic is moving in that area,” said Morgan, noting she’d been assured by KDOT last week the department was moving “with all due speed” on its study. “We’re interested in all the traffic on County Road 1.”

Just what could or should be done to ensure safety at the intersection will be left to KDOT, she said.

“We’re awaiting results of that study,” Morgan said. “They’re doing this report.”

Peters said she’d been working on the study since early last year, even before the new turnpike interchange opened. County officials had been concerned about overall traffic volumes, and whether traffic signals would need to be installed at K-32.

“It doesn’t qualify for that,” Peters said. “It didn’t before and it still doesn’t.”

Before the turnpike interchange opened, she said, the K-32 intersection had an accident rate virtually identical to the statewide average for intersections along rural highways.

Now, Peters said, the intersection’s rate is “slightly higher” than the statewide average, but still not enough to support recommending major changes. Viable changes would include:

• Replacing the existing three-foot-tall stop signs with ones that are four feet tall.

• Installing larger advance warning signs and adding more warning signs.

• Adding red sheeting to stop signs and on the posts themselves.

“The idea would be for them to be larger and more visible,” Peters said. “That’s not to say that if they were there, the crashes would not have occurred.”

After reviewing road conditions, accident history, traffic volumes and other factors, KDOT’s study concluded that traffic signals would not be appropriate for the intersection, Peters said, nor would flashing lights on warning signs.

Whatever changes, if any, approved for the intersection would be included in a final report. Peters said that report could be completed by Friday.


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