Stop signs at junction delayed

Attorney: Rumble strips needed first

workers with the Kansas Department of Transportation set up stop signs and flashing lights at Baldwin Junction, although the new signals were taken down about an hour later. Rumble strips must be installed before the signs can be used. They worked Friday near a roadside memorial for two young women recently killed at the intersection of U.S. highways 56 and 59.

The Baldwin Junction 10 miles south of Lawrence was a four-way stop for about an hour Friday afternoon.

Then, Kansas Department of Transportation workers covered the signs and lights they had installed on U.S. Highway 59. Area engineer Earl Bosak had received a warning from KDOT’s legal division not to change the intersection until a crew could install rumble strips on U.S. 59.

“We have to get the machine (to create rumble strips) and it’s over in Osage City,” Bosak said at 4:15 p.m. “It would be dark before we got it here, and we don’t want to work in the dark.”

Until Monday, the intersection – where three people have died this year as a result of accidents – will remain a two-way stop for drivers traveling across U.S. Highway 56.

KDOT attorneys feared the state would be liable if another accident occurred at the intersection without the rumble strips in place, Bosak said. The crew would likely make the changes and transform the notorious intersection to a four-way stop on Monday, he said.

The stop sign installation happened just days after Charlene Pohl, 84, of Baldwin, died after she was in an accident there on Tuesday.

Two Spring Hill teens died after an April 29 crash when they pulled out from U.S. 56 and were hit by a pickup truck, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s office.

In the past few months, several residents had complained about the visibility and speed limit in the intersection, and KDOT agreed to study the intersection again.

On orders from KDOT Secretary Deb Miller, Bosak’s crew went to the junction of U.S. 59 and 56 Friday afternoon, soon after they received a shipment of the signs and lights from the manufacturer, Kansas Correctional Industries.

Bosak said the secretary’s office had received several calls demanding the four-way stop put in place after Pohl’s accident on Tuesday. KDOT announced in early July that the intersection would become a four-way stop sometime between late July and mid-August.

When the work is complete, drivers on U.S. 59 will encounter stop-ahead signs with flashing lights, rumble strips and the stop sign with flashing red lights. When it was set up as a four-way stop Friday, KDOT workers said they saw a couple drivers illegally pass through the intersection in the right lane without stopping because cars on the left lane were turning.

Bosak said the intersection will remain safe through the weekend even with the covered signs.

“It won’t be any worse than it was,” he said.

Some area drivers said they worried about the 55 mph speed limit in the area and that drivers on U.S. 59 would not catch the change right away.

“I know that there have been a lot of accidents. I’m a little bit nervous about coming this way and people not realizing it’s a four-way stop,” said Jill Brown, of Baldwin.

“Half the time people don’t even stop anyway, they just roll through,” said Laura Linder, who lives near Overbrook.

KDOT plans to expand U.S. 59 to a four-lane highway in the next few years between Ottawa and Lawrence.

Bosak said drivers should always be cautious.

“Put down the cell phone, quit drinking coffee and drive like you are supposed to drive,” he said.