Linda Russell won't have to worry as much when her school bus drivers are out shuttling youngsters and driving U.S. Highway 56 across U.S. Highway 59 at the Baldwin Junction.
Soon, north-south traffic on U.S. 59 also will have to stop at the notoriously dangerous intersection - the site of a deadly crash on April 29 that killed two Spring Hill teens.
Kansas Department of Transportation officials Tuesday announced plans to make the junction 10 miles south of Lawrence a four-way stop.
"Oh my goodness, yes. That's just wonderful. When they raised that speed limit through there, it's really always a concern for the drivers coming through there," said Russell, transportation supervisor for the Baldwin school district. "They (bus drivers) don't take any chances. Sometimes they are held up there for several minutes."
Russell said she could not recall any accidents involving school buses, but her drivers and other residents often complained about the signs at the intersection blocking their views of oncoming U.S. 59 traffic.
"Putting a four-way stop is a big plus. My question would be: If we need to put a stop there, how come a few short years ago we raised the speed limit from 45 to 55 (mph)?" said Delbert Sheldon, who lives near Baldwin.
At the request of residents, motorists and area officials, KDOT engineers re-examined the junction's safety although a 2004 study had declared it OK, including sight distance, sign placement and the speed limit that was increased in 1998.
On April 29, two Spring Hill teenagers died after the driver pulled her car out from a stop sign on U.S. 56. The teens' car collided with a pickup truck traveling north on U.S. 59.
"I typically try to avoid it. Just because of the number of accidents, it's definitely something that I'm glad they've studied and warranted a change be made," said Baldwin City Administrator Jeff Dingman.
Between 2002 and 2005, 36 accidents occurred at the junction - 17 were injury-producing accidents leaving 29 people hurt. As with the April 29 accident, a majority of those crashes involved drivers from U.S. 56 pulling in front of U.S. 59 traffic, said Joe Blubaugh, a KDOT spokesman.
"Our goal is that the (change) will reduce the frequency of those high-speed, high-impact crashes," Blubaugh said.
Sometime later this month or through mid-August, U.S. 59 near the junction will get its makeover. KDOT will install rumble strips in northbound and southbound lanes.
Intersection of U.S. 59-56
KDOT also will install stop signs at three spots on the highway to warn U.S. 59 drivers. Stop signs will be placed on both sides of the road. Flags and flashing lights are included in the plans.
Blubaugh said KDOT instituted a similar configuration at the junction of U.S. Highways 50 and 77 near Florence because of accidents there.
However, the four-way stop at Baldwin Junction will be temporary.
A $214.3 million plan is in the works to expand U.S. 59 to a four-lane freeway between Lawrence and Ottawa. Currently, the four-lane road is scheduled to open in Franklin County in 2009 and in Douglas County in 2011. The old U.S. 59 will then become a county road, Blubaugh said.
New highway ahead
A four-way stop at Baldwin Junction will be temporary. A $214.3 million plan is in the works to expand U.S. Highway 59 to a four-lane freeway between Lawrence and Ottawa. Currently, the four-lane road is scheduled to open in Franklin County in 2009 and in Douglas County in 2011.
More about the signs on U.S. 59
- 6News video: Baldwin Junction to become four-way stop
- 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)
- U.S. 59 wreck that killed one still under investigation (05-02-06)
- Driver killed on Highway 59 (04-30-06)