Accident offers preview of construction, chief says
An injury accident at the height of the rush hour this week reduced Main Street to one northbound lane of traffic, backed up vehicles for blocks in both directions for nearly an hour and had some impatient motorists carping at emergency workers at the accident scene.
The Monday afternoon accident, Police Chief Steve Wayman said, offers motorists a good preview of what Main Street could be like once an $11.3 million road construction project begins there in spring 2006.
It also should serve as a reminder that motorists might start thinking now about other routes before construction gets into full swing, he said.
"People need to start considering now what alternate routes are going to be available," Wayman said. "If we get down to two lanes because of construction and there's an accident, it's really going to back things up."
The accident Monday occurred about 3:40 p.m., police said, when a 1999 Ford Taurus driven north on Main Street tried to make a left turn at a yellow light in front of a southbound 2001 Pontiac Grand Am.
The driver of the Taurus, Teresa Lynn Kerbe of Kansas City, Kan., suffered possible unspecified injuries but refused treatment, police said. The driver of the Grand Am, Jennifer Leigh Montgomery, Prairie Village, was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence. The age of both drivers was not available Tuesday from police.
Wayman said police officers working the accident closed Main Street south of Ida to southbound traffic; northbound traffic was reduced to one lane at the intersection.
The resulting bottlenecks caused some motorists to overheat and vent at officers.
"I understand the frustration of people," Wayman said, "but that's the last thing an officer wants to do: Stand in the middle of Main Street at rush hour and hold up traffic."
Wayman said the officers cleared the accident and reopened all four lanes by 4:40 p.m. - about an hour after the accident occurred.
"That's a long time, but we've got to do what we have to do" assisting with any injured people, investigating the accident and trying not to cause any additional harm, Wayman said.
"To sit there and yell at the officers is not going to help at all," he said.
The Main Street System Enhancement project will stretch from Gilman Road to Connie Street. Improvements include widening Main Street from Connie to Ida Street to include a center turn lane, rebuilding the bridge over 7-Mile Creek, reconstructing medians from Gilman Road to Ida Street and constructing a "reverse frontage road" north of West Mary Street to West Kansas Avenue.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is expected to seek bids for the work in March with construction getting under way later in the spring. Construction is expected to last into fall 2007.
"At the end of those two years, when the project is done, it's going to be a really phenomenal project," Wayman said. "But until then, people are just going to have to be really patient."