Archive for Thursday, December 9, 2010

KDOT planning traffic signal for 158th Street

December 9, 2010

A traffic signal is coming to U.S. Highway 24-40 at 158th Street on the edge of Basehor, after years' worth of efforts by the city and other groups to improve safety at the intersection.

The Kansas Department of Transportation told area officials last week of plans to install a stoplight at 24-40 and 158th, with a goal of finishing by late summer 2012.

The decision came after a third KDOT traffic study of the highway since Tonganoxie teenager Amanda Bixby died in an accident at the intersection in February 2007, said Kimberly Qualls, northeast Kansas public affairs manager for KDOT.

Qualls said KDOT planned to coordinate the light with the signal on the highway at 155th Street to reduce traffic delays.

David Howard, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent, wrote to KDOT in September asking for the speed limit on U.S. 24-40 to be lowered through Basehor. Though KDOT did not grant that request, Howard said district officials were thrilled at the news of the coming stoplight.

“I just cringe when I see the traffic out there at 7:30 a.m.,” Howard said.

The opening of the district's new middle school on 158th south of Basehor has led to increased morning and afternoon traffic, Howard said. Students who once rode the bus to Linwood for school now get a ride from their parents.

“We definitely have more parents dropping off at the middle school than we ever had before,” he said.

Howard said the potential traffic at the intersection may be even greater than the rate measured by KDOT, because some buses and cars avoid it on the way to school because of the lack of a stoplight.

A fatal accident that first led to KDOT studies of the intersection happened not at rush hour, but at night, around 9:15 p.m.

Bixby, a 19-year-old Tonganoxie High School graduate, died in a three-car accident at the intersection on Feb. 14, 2007, when a man ran a stop sign while driving north on 158th Street. Dennis Bixby, Amanda's father, said he didn’t know whether a stoplight would have prevented his daughter’s accident, but he was glad to hear of KDOT’s decision.

“I think it's great news,” Bixby said. “I think most of the community will agree with me that it's long overdue.”

Basehor city officials were also pleased, said city administrator Mark Loughry.

“We'd obviously like to see it happen sooner than 2012,” Loughry said, “but we're just happy that they're going to be able to do something there.”

Qualls said KDOT planned to finish the project by the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.

After three injury accidents occurred on U.S. 24-40 near 158th Street early in the school year, the Basehor Chamber of Commerce, Basehor-Linwood School District and the Leavenworth County Commission joined to ask KDOT for a traffic study investigating the speed limit on the highway in and around Basehor.

After conducting the study last month, KDOT determined it did not support a speed limit decrease, but traffic patterns did support the installation of a traffic signal, Qualls said.

Qualls said KDOT found that crash rates at the intersection were near the state average for similar rural highway intersections, as was the case in previous KDOT studies conducted since 2007. KDOT investigated the intersection in 2007 after Bixby's accident and again in 2009 after the city of Basehor requested a speed study.

A 2007 KDOT study of the 24-40 corridor suggested that the 158th Street intersection would need a traffic signal at some point.

“We've been aware that it would eventually get a stoplight since then,” Loughry said. “We didn't know the traffic count would get to the point where it would merit it this soon.”

Dennis Bixby said he was disappointed it had taken this long for a signal to be approved, but he hoped the change would help keep people safe in the future.

“I know that a lot of people take a lot of chances at that intersection,” Bixby said. “And if it prevents one fatality, or ruining one person's life, because it's there, then it's worth it.”

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