Regardless of what prompted it, a review of speed limits on highways that pass close to three Kansas schools seems long overdue.
This issue came to local attention recently when the Kansas Department of Transportation announced it was going to raise the speed limit on U.S. Highway 56 from 55 to 60 in front of Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center. The school is located just west of the Baldwin City city limits.
"If they are actually going to raise the speed limit in front of the school to 60, I'm just appalled," said the school's principal when he heard the news.
Actually many people probably were "appalled" at the idea of a 55 mph speed limit in front of the school.
The good news is that it didn't take long for KDOT officials to rethink their decision and announce that they would delay any changes in the speed limit until they could meet with school officials in Baldwin City and two other districts with schools located on U.S. 56: Santa Fe Trail High School near Overbrook and Northern Heights High School near Allen.
A KDOT spokesman claimed that "nothing changed our minds," but the chain of events leading to the decision seems to argue otherwise. The department announced the higher speed limit, people complained, and the decision was put on hold. Something changed.
At least it was a change for the better. Rather than raising the speed limit in front of the three schools in question, officials should look at lowering the limit, increasing enforcement and perhaps pursuing other measures such as flashing lights that can be activated when school traffic is heaviest.
Traffic counts indicate that traffic on U.S. 56 across Douglas County has increased significantly in the last decade, especially at the eastern side of the county. It only makes sense to try to slow that traffic down not only in front of an elementary school but also in front of high schools where many young drivers are on the road.
Whether or not KDOT officials reached this conclusion on their own, they have made the right decision. Their meetings with school officials should include discussion not only of canceling the 5 mph speed-limit increase but actually lowering the limit and taking other measures to increase student safety in those areas.