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Archive for Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wreck revives concerns about U.S. 24-40 safety

September 27, 2006

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— Even before she was in a wreck there last week, Jennifer Fatherley considered the U.S. Highway 24-40 highway intersection she crosses daily dangerous.

Something should be done to make the intersection safer, she said.

"We need more stoplights in this town," Fatherley said.

Friday afternoon, minutes after school was dismissed, 15-year-old Michelle Baker failed to yield at the stop sign on the south side of U.S. 24-40 and Main Street, according to Kansas Highway Patrol reports.

Baker's vehicle, a 1990 Pontiac, struck a 1997 Mercury minivan driven by Fatherley, 35, of Tonganoxie. There were no serious injuries in the crash.

Since June 2002, Tonganoxie fire chief Dave Bennett said, the fire department had responded to 52 highway accidents in Tonganoxie. Of those, Bennett said, 14 were at Main Street, the site of Friday's collision.

"In four years, 30 to 40 people were injured, three of them being LifeFlighted (by medical helicopter)," Bennett said. "It's my job to make the council and the mayor aware of safety problems."

Bennett had said he thought more stoplights on U.S. 24-40 were needed.

"I'm not the expert on traffic flow," Bennett said regarding what intersection most needed a stoplight. "But just in looking at the numbers, I'd say definitely at 24-40 and Main."

City Administrator Mike Yanez said he was surprised by the number of highway accidents.

"We need some control out here in Tonganoxie - at least one more stoplight," Yanez said. "I don't know where the heck you would put it."

Joe Blubaugh, spokesman for Kansas Department of Transportation, said he wasn't sure if, or when, Tonganoxie would qualify for another stoplight.

"It takes a traffic study," Blubaugh said. "We actually have to have certain warrants that have to be met before we put a traffic signal in at any location."

If city officials want another stoplight, they first must make an official request to KDOT.

"We look at the amount of traffic, at the safety aspects," Blubaugh said.

And, Blubaugh noted, a U.S. 24-40 corridor study - to examine the highway from Kansas Highway 7 to south of Tonganoxie - currently is under way. The study will determine the corridor's needs for the next 20 to 30 years.

Blubaugh said he thought it was unlikely that an additional stoplight would be approved before the corridor study was complete. And though no official date has been set, he said it's possible that would be another two years.

Blubaugh said a long-range sort of pie-in-the-sky solution could be to have U.S. 24-40 bypass Tonganoxie.

"There's obviously zero plans for this at this point, but a long-range study like this is usually a good start," Blubaugh said.

- The (Tonganoxie) Mirror news editor Lisa Scheller can be reached at (913) 845-2222.

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