A center turn lane would increase safety at 23rd and Massachusetts, the city's most accident-prone intersection, a traffic engineer says.
When it comes to preventing collisions at the city's most accident-prone intersection, Paul Bertrand knows that speed bumps, speed traps and diverted traffic patterns won't work.
After more than 20 years working as a traffic engineer, Bertrand is certain that the best way to cut back on the number of wrecks at 23rd and Massachusetts streets is to install a center turn lane for vehicles on 23rd.
Cost is not his concern. Safety is.
"It's getting really bad over there," he said Wednesday night during a public meeting to discuss the project. "We need to do something drastic. It's not something that can be taken lightly."
With an average of 26 accidents a year at the intersection -- not to mention the 18 so far this year -- Bertrand and his associates at George Butler Associates Inc. have been working to design a proposal for spending an estimated $600,000 to upgrade the intersection's signals and layout.
Lawrence city commissioners hired Bertrand's company to come up with the best proposal, and that's what about 50 people showed up to see during a meeting at nearby Haskell Indian Nations University.
"This will benefit the city at large," Bertrand told them.
As many as 76 of the 101 accidents analyzed by his company could have been prevented with the recommended improvements in place.
But others aren't so sure.
David Dunfield, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, said community decisions needed to reach beyond only safety concerns. Property values, the city's image and other issues also come into play.
Current plans call for buying land from five properties along the north side of 23rd to make way for the wider street. The project could reach 10 to 12 feet into people's side yards and uproot several trees.
"There is a balance between reducing accidents, improving the accidents and other values," Dunfield said.
Bo March, 2309 Mass., wants the city to move ahead with all of Bertrand's suggestions except one: the left-turn lane.
Using Bertrand's own figures, several measures -- installing new signals, adjusting signal times, trimming nearby landscaping and eliminating the "free-swinging" right turn lane off Massachusetts -- could have prevented up to 48 of the accidents included in the study.
"That's great," he said. "Then we won't have to spend all that money for the left-turn lane."
Commissioners will receive Bertrand's recommendations within a month. No meeting has been scheduled to decide which option, if any, to pursue.