Archive for Friday, July 9, 1999

BUSY INTERSECTION FITTED FOR BRAKES

July 9, 1999

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Traffic isn't going to get any lighter in the fast-growing area, the city's traffic engineer says.

Too many accidents and too many cars soon could mean plenty of brake lights at a busy intersection in west Lawrence.

Monday night, the city's Traffic Safety Commission will consider a request to install stop signs for traffic on Wakarusa Drive at Harvard Road. Currently, only traffic on Harvard has to stop.

The request comes from Greg Benefiel, the commission's chair, who earlier this spring noted at least four accidents at the intersection within a month.

None of the recent accidents has involved serious injuries, but more than a few cars have been banged up making unsuccessful left turns across oncoming traffic.

"I worry that a serious accident with injuries will occur if traffic controls are not implemented," Benefiel said.

Commissioners will consider Benefiel's request during their regular monthly meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.

David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer, analyzed the intersection and found that the traffic statistics satisfy guidelines for an "all-way stop."

One day last fall, officials counted 12,609 vehicles entering the intersection -- 10,262 along Wakarusa and 2,347 from Harvard. And traffic in the area is expected to increase during the coming months as a new Dillons store is built at the southeast corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa.

New professional offices continue to pop up in the nearby Oread West Research Park, while home construction remains active to the west.

"Traffic volumes, we know, are going to grow," Woosley said. "They're not stagnant; they're going to grow. When you have more and more traffic, you're going to need more control and there's going to be some delay."

Woosley refused to disclose the city's own records regarding traffic accidents at the intersection, citing the potential for lawsuits against the city. But having at least five "correctable" accidents within a year qualifies an intersection for an all-way stop.

The Harvard and Wakarusa intersection meets that standard and more, he said.

Andy Ramirez, a local attorney, knows it's true. He sees at least two "near misses" a week at the intersection, and still recalls seeing a banged-up school bus there, at the end of a lengthy set of skid marks.

"Something needs to be done," said Ramirez, a member of the Lawrence-Douglas County planning commission.

Any recommendations from the commission would be forwarded to the Lawrence City Commission for a final decision, likely by the end of July.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.

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