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Archive for Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Signs create hazard at intersection, motorist says

June 6, 2006

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— J.T. Schwalm has witnessed some hairy situations outside his office window near the junction of U.S. highways 59 and 56, about 10 miles south of Lawrence.


Delbert Sheldon is concerned that signs are blocking the view of drivers on U.S. Highway 56 attempting to cross U.S. 59 near Baldwin. Sheldon, who frequently drives that stretch of road, navigated the intersection on Monday.

Delbert Sheldon is concerned that signs are blocking the view of drivers on U.S. Highway 56 attempting to cross U.S. 59 near Baldwin. Sheldon, who frequently drives that stretch of road, navigated the intersection on Monday.

"I've seen semis come from the east (on U.S. 56) without stopping. They just didn't stop and didn't slow down. You can hear their air horns go off," said the Hansen's Used Cars salesman.

That's a dangerous practice, considering the deadly wreck on April 29 and possible visibility issues there near the Baldwin Junction Veterinary Clinic, says Delbert Sheldon, a Baldwin area resident who drives through the intersection a few times each week. The Kansas Department of Transportation is puzzled by the dangers there and is currently studying the junction again after a 2004 study declared it safe.

Baldwin Junction blind spot

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

U.S. 59 traffic does not stop; U.S. 56 traffic must come to a halt before crossing or turning.

"When you pull up to that stop sign, this driver's side looking south. It's just totally blind spot," Sheldon said.

He demonstrated the view from his extended cab pickup truck Monday morning while he headed west on U.S. 56 and looked to the south down U.S. 59.

Combined signs a few feet from the junction for northbound U.S. 59 drivers identifies the two crossing roads. From the stop sign at U.S. 56, only the silver backs of the junction signs are visible to drivers.


A driver looks for traffic before crossing U.S. Highway 59 at Baldwin Junction, the intersection with U.S. Highway 56.  Residents are concerned that signage, like that above, is blocking the view of drivers at the notoriously dangerous intersection.

A driver looks for traffic before crossing U.S. Highway 59 at Baldwin Junction, the intersection with U.S. Highway 56. Residents are concerned that signage, like that above, is blocking the view of drivers at the notoriously dangerous intersection.

Sheldon says the signs can hide approaching cars. The signs combine with a ridge near the eastern ditch, he said. Drivers must pull forward, but if they are looking both ways, the signs can add an obstacle between glances, he says.

"Why should you have a sign that close to the intersection? If you are reading that sign, you've done missed this intersection," Sheldon said.

On April 29, Jennifer A. Jamison, 19, Spring Hill, pulled out of a stop from the same intersection and into a northbound pickup truck, according to an accident report. She and her passenger, Laura Miller, 19, Spring Hill, died from injuries.

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

Brian Gower, a KDOT traffic engineer, said the agency follows its manual and generally places the junction signs where a vehicle's turning radius begins. They take into account the visibility from all directions, and the 2004 study declared the sign locations, the 55 mph speed limit - which was increased from 45 mph there in 1998 - and the sight distance to be safe at the junction.

Gower said he speculated the sign may block the view from U.S. 56 depending on where the driver stops. They have the freedom to nudge up or stop short to get a better view, he said.

He also said KDOT does find certain intersections to be safe regarding their layout, but they tend to be trouble spots or produce accident patterns.

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

"That can be at any location," Gower said. "We, as an agency, have looked at several locations where you have all the necessary signing in place, have sight distance forever with no obstructions, and people have accidents there, and you can't really understand why that's occurring."

A citizen requested KDOT study the U.S. 59-U.S. 56 junction again. Gower expects to have data on turning movements, traffic volume and other factors within the next month.

According to KDOT, between Lawrence and Ottawa in the last 10 years, 15 people have died and 365 have been injured on U.S. 59.

A $214.3 million plan is in the works to expand U.S. 59 to a four-lane freeway between Lawrence to Ottawa. The junction would become an interchange under the plan. Currently, the road is scheduled to open in Franklin County in 2009 and in Douglas County in 2011.

Intersection of U.S. 59-56

Schwalm says that he is familiar enough with the placement of the signs at the junction but that drivers unfamiliar with the area could get a false sense of security when they are looking back and forth.

"I don't know what they'd do with it. I think the four-lane is the best remedy," he said.

Sheldon said he thinks the issue deserves attention.

"If it saves one wreck of somebody injured for life, definitely that would satisfy me," he said.

Comments

lunacydetector 8 years, 6 months ago

i've always thought those signs were dangerous. gee, signs block view of motorists....time to run a study to see why that intersection is dangerous -if KDOT moves the signs would that mean the signs might have caused some wrecks?

bankboy119 8 years, 6 months ago

That intersection is one of the clearest around.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 6 months ago

The SIGNS are killing people? NOT the inattentive drivers? Who would have thought?

Look, if you cannot see around a sign, what do you do? Gun it and hope for the best, or move ahead 12 inches so that you can see around the sign? This is about the impatience, speed, and lack of attention given by the drivers. Those are the main problems. We are lazy drivers. We just want the roads to be easy to drive rather than require ourselves to focus our minds on what we are doing when we are behind the wheel.

Do I really need to read an analysis of traffic safety engineering given by a used car salesman? Experts, I'm sure.

1DJMjas7 8 years, 6 months ago

I have one thing to say:

TRAFFIC LIGHT!

compmd 8 years, 6 months ago

Ban signs. :)

Oldenuf, good post. Nobody wants to accept responsibility for being a bad driver, especially in Kansas where you can be mentally retarded and still get a drivers license. This disappointing thing is that the problem of bad drivers has only gotten worse.

Grams 8 years, 6 months ago

59 Highway is a disgrace and has been for 50 years. Baldwin Junction (56/59) has always been extremely dangerous. It was a little safer when the speed on 59 slowed to 45, but it still was a bad junction. Because more and more people drive unattentive and with no manners, bad places only get worse. Until the wonderful new 59 gets open---which they could have done differently and something would already be built!---I think a traffic light is the best answer to save lives and prevent future accidents. And, if I were in charge, the stop light would be installed NOW--not wait until another accident or death. It could be your loved one at that junction who is dead or maimed for life. Action is what we need and we need it now!

mason 8 years, 6 months ago

Anyone that is bringing attention to this intersection needs to be commended! For the amount of traffic, the speed limit is too fast, the signs suck, and you have to form a committee to do something. Duh! You don't have to be a Traffic Engineer to know that sometime is wrong. Yes, a light might help, but I would recommend a roundabout. They put in a roundabout at the intersection of K68 and Old KC Road near Paola, KS and I do not think they have had a fatality since the install. Yes, the truckers hate it because they have to slow down, but it is cheap and saves lives. Have any of you who have posted tried to cross 59-HWY between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. It's almost impossible.

Where is the City of Baldwin in this, where are our county commissioners! Someone needs to stand-up and be heard!

happyone 8 years, 6 months ago

Mason I agree a roundabout (as much as I hate them) would be the best fix for this intersecton. This has been abad intersection for the 25 years that I've known of and used it!!!

gphawk89 8 years, 6 months ago

Signs aren't dangerous; people are. Intersections aren't dangerous; people are. Highways aren't dangerous; people are. Guardrails don't "kill"; people do. A traffic light could be installed, but someone could still be killed at the intersection by an inattentive driver. Four-way stop signs could be installed, but someone could still be killed at the intersection by an inattentive driver. A roundabout could be installed, but someone could still be killed at the intersection by an inattentive driver. All the signs could be removed, but someone could still be killed at the intersection by an inattentive driver. How about everyone just drive patiently, attentively, and within their ability to remain in control of their vehicle?

bankboy119 8 years, 6 months ago

So...anybody else looking at the picture and see a blind spot? I sure don't. Anyways, yes Luny this is an extremely open intersection. There are no bushes, trees, cars in the road, anything. The only problem that I'm aware of is that sometimes there is a wait because of traffic on 59.

mason 8 years, 6 months ago

gphawk98, I think you are looking at the world through "rose colored" glasses. Yes, people kill people, but you are telling me that you would not take measures to help save lives, even one?

bankboy119, I doubt you've even driven across 59-hwy at this intersection. There are several signs in the area that impede your sight. This also depends on the height of your vehicle. Yes, if you are cautious, you will be fine, but the problem arises from inattentive people, which there are a lot of out there. If you pull a little bit into the turn lane and stick the nose of your car out, you can see fine, but you feel like you are sitting in the middle of the intersection.

Bottom line: They can't build the four lane expansion soon enough. Does anyone know if they will be limiting access to the four lane highway so we do not move this issue to some other location?

lunacydetector 8 years, 6 months ago

i can clearly see a blind spot caused by that sign. regardless if the complainer sells cars or not, sometimes KDOT gets it wrong.

just remember the big hump in north lawrence across from johnny's that was there for years? a kid gets hit by a car drivng over that hump and a couple of days later the city is flattening out that hump.

i once met an engineer. he was very knowledgable about everything, or seemed to think so. when i asked him what railroad he worked for, he shut his mouth. engineers, architects, accountants think from the wrong side of the brain. if something looks obvious on paper doesn't necessarily make it so. the real world shows that intersection is dangerous. perhaps there is a design flaw (sign placement) that could be easily and inexpensively fixed. would there be great harm if they moved the sign 50' feet?

fletch 8 years, 6 months ago

Make it a freaking 4 way stop. Sorry if it inconvienences people by 15 seconds, but its a good solution that costs the county and state all of two stop signs and installation.

Confrontation 8 years, 6 months ago

I was on my way back from Ottawa a few months ago. A semi truck literally pulled out in front of both lanes in traffic in order to get onto 59 towards Ottawa. He just assumed that every person the road would be able to stop because he was in a big truck. I had to come to a complete stop and wait for his truck to get out of my path. I'm just glad no one came speeding up behind me. The semi drivers are the ones who need further training and harsher punishments.

gphawk89 8 years, 6 months ago

I'm not saying I would not take reasonable and practical measures to make the intersection safer. I'm just saying that the intersection (or any intersection or road for that matter) is only as safe as the drivers using it. There's nothing inherently unsafe about a sign, intersection, or road; it takes people to make them unsafe.

It would be a mistake to assume that moving the signs, installing a 4-way stop, etc., would make the intersection "safe". "Safer", maybe, but not idiot-proof.

thisiknow 8 years, 6 months ago

If ever there was a need for a roundabout, this is exactly the intersection to use it on. I have always avoided the intersection because most east-west bound cars or trucks just hesitate and pull out without totally coming to a stop. The north bound driver whizzes through and the crazy south bound driver will go around the car in front of him that is turning left onto Hwy 56 and the south bound driver does not always have a clear view of a driver that might be turning west from Hwy59. It always has been a deadly intersection.

Centrist 8 years, 6 months ago

I guess nobody notices the HUGE stop sign then ....

BrianR 8 years, 6 months ago

Bad signs?

The Omen...

06/06/06

This is too weird.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 6 months ago

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

topflight 8 years, 6 months ago

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

compmd 8 years, 6 months ago

For the people that claim that visibility is bad at that intersection, how did you pass your vision test?

Its clear that anyone who thinks visibility and the accident rate at that intersection are bad has never lived in a real city.

willie_wildcat 8 years, 6 months ago

Confrontation,

Do you know anyone who drives semi? I happen to have a family member who drives semi and he is one of the safest drivers out there. Not all semi drivers are as bad as you imply. When was the last time you took a drive out on 24-40 or other busy highway and observed other drivers and their habits? Not pretty I can tell you considering I drive that rout everyday. When you said that semi expected everyone to stop for him when he pulled out I have had that happen to me by people in cars ranging from the little hatchback to the suv. Try driving in another state like California where this is pretty common from my personal experience. But yes I do agree there are some semi drivers who should not be driving and have their CDL's taken away but there are other drivers who do not need to be on the roads either. But the moral of this story or article is to be on the defense and look out for people like that.

compmd 8 years, 6 months ago

In general, CDL drivers are the better drivers out there. Willie is right though, there are lots that should have their CDLs taken away. Additionally, I've seen non-commercial A and B class drivers that shouldn't be operating the vehicles they do.

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