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Archive for Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Four-way stop coming to Baldwin Junction

July 12, 2006

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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.

Video

Raw footage of the traffic at Baldwin Junction Enlarge video

"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.

Baldwin Junction blind spot

Delbert Sheldon, Baldwin resident, shows the north view of the U.S. 59-56 intersection. Enlarge video

Baldwin Junction blind spot

Delbert Sheldon, Baldwin resident, shows the blind spot behind signs looking south from the U.S. 59-56 intersection. Enlarge video

Baldwin Junction blind spot

J.T. Schwalm, salesman at Hansen's Used Cars, talks about some of the problems of the U.S. 59-56 intersection. Enlarge video

Comments

craigers 8 years, 5 months ago

Check out the video of the junction that was included in the article. It left me breathless, simply breathless... :) The least they could do is add some commentary.

Ken Miller 8 years, 5 months ago

The intersection will be even more dangerous, initially. Drivers are so used to barreling through there northbound and southbound that even the warning signs and flashing lights may not be enough. Be EVEN MORE careful when traveling through Baldwin Junction.

Brian Dick 8 years, 5 months ago

How about we speed up the process for the 4-lane highway! 59 from Lawrence to Ottawa is terrible and it takes forever to go from one place to the other!

Morgss 8 years, 5 months ago

Southern Douglas County has a couple of more blood pressure rising, but lesser known interchanges. Pay extra attention screaming through the interchange located at HW 460 and 59 S. Also called Zarco (best gas station wienies in the county) Corner. The most dangerous perhaps is the corner of HW 458 and County Road 1061. Very scenic, hilly, and to new travelers an almost hidden 4 way stop on a 55 mph road.

Bialosky 8 years, 5 months ago

is this the front story in the paper paper today ? Because I can't believe I logged into this website to be greeted, first off, with a story about a dang road.

I'm not complaining, it's just funny.

baldwinCITY 8 years, 5 months ago

Reality_Check...the only time I felt safe at "the Jct." was when there WAS a blinking red light for 56 and blinking yellow for 59 traffic. At least it caught most drivers attention and could be seen even in heavy fog and rain. My family has lived on the SW corner of "the Jct." since the 1930's and there really hasn't ever been a great solution. I grew up with accident victims asking to use our phone if we didn't get to the door first because of the sounds of yet another crash. BTW, my favorite game from the time I was 4, 1957, was pulling out the KDOT flags since we were constantly told that 59 was going to be widened for safety. Right. Will believe when I see it...

junco_partner 8 years, 5 months ago

oscarfactor, you took the words right out of my mouth (or is it off my keyboard?)

Someone traveling north or south on highway 59 WILL run that stop sign and someone WILL die as a result. Take his advice and be EXTRA CAREFUL at that intersection after they make the change.

Morgss 8 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Ken Miller 8 years, 5 months ago

I hate to bring up bad news for those of you thinking there's a chance of speeding up the construction of the new US-59 - but with oil prices the way they are, prices for building roads are going sky-high. This project wasn't cheap to begin with - and since road materials and construction vehicles use lotsa oil and gasoline, it's gonna cost a whole lot more to get this $100 million-plus (and going higher) project done.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 5 months ago

And I've never really understood why the new highway has to take a different route anyway. Why couldn't they just widen the one that's already there? It's been done before. Seems like it would have taken a lot less time and effort, too.

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