Traffic engineers and the Kansas Highway Patrol have said the intersection at Baldwin Junction is safe.
But you won't convince Wendell Pohl of that. His 84-year-old mother died Tuesday after her car was struck by a semitrailer at the intersection of U.S. Highways 59 and 56 south of Lawrence. And there have been others killed at the corner this year.
"I hope they can sleep well at night," Pohl said. "They must not use that intersection very much."
Charlene Pohl, of Baldwin, was killed when a semitrailer traveling north on U.S. 59 struck her Buick sedan, which was pulling away from the westbound stop sign at the U.S. 56 intersection.
The Kansas Highway Patrol said Charlene Pohl did not completely stop at the stop sign before pulling into the intersection and that "driver error" was at fault in the accident.
At the Pohl home in Baldwin, Wendell Pohl spent Wednesday making funeral arrangements for his mother - the service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Worden United Methodist Church in Baldwin - and wondering whether more safety precautions at the intersection would have saved his mother's life.
"We don't know how many it's going to take like this to get it fixed," he said.
More about the intersection
- 6News video: Improvements to intersection will arrive too late for Baldwin woman
- Wreck latest sign of junction dangers (08-02-06)
- 6News video: Woman injured in Baldwin Junction collision (08-01-06)
- Four-way stop coming to Baldwin Junction (07-12-06)
- Signs create hazard at intersection, motorist says (6-6-06)
- 19-year-old dies from wreck injuries (05-11-06)
- Second victim dies from injuries in Baldwin Junction accident (05-10-06)
Pohl said he doesn't understand why the speed limit along U.S. 59 was increased from 45 to 55 mph. That happened in 1998. And a 2004 study declared the intersection safe - including speed limit, stop signs and other features.
Others have clamored for more safety precautions at the intersection, and state highway officials have promised to make the corner a four-way stop and to add rumble strips on U.S. 59.
Ottawa resident Ricky Roth said he drove Highway 59 every day.
"I did not understand why they ever sped up (the) junction to begin with," Roth wrote to the Journal-World.
The Kansas Department of Transportation has planned for weeks to install stop signs and rumble strips along the north and southbound lanes of U.S. 59 at the intersection.
Steve Swartz, spokesman for KDOT, said that after Pohl's death the department on Wednesday installed an electronic speed indicator along northbound U.S. 59, even though the semitrailer's speed had little to do with the wreck.
"We did that to get people's attention," he said.
Swartz said he wasn't sure how long the speed indicator would be there, but that it wouldn't be permanent.
After a time, he said, the signs lose their effectiveness.
"You don't just set them up and leave them there," Swartz said.
Intersection of U.S. 59-56
The new stop signs for the corner should arrive from the manufacturer, Kansas Correctional Industries, next week.
Installation of those and several "stop ahead" signs should begin shortly thereafter, he said.
Crews will also grind the rumble strips into the roads at the same time, he said.
But Swartz said the 55 mph zone would likely remain as is.
Studies have shown that most cars travel at least that fast on U.S. 59, and lowering the speed limit could create more problems than solutions to the recent string of accidents.
"Lowering the speed limit, you want to make sure you don't create a more hazardous situation," he said.
In April, two Spring Hill teenagers died after their vehicle was struck pulling into the intersection from the U.S. 56 stop sign.
Between 2002 and 2005, 36 accidents occurred at the intersection - 17 resulting in injuries.