City to campaign for lower speed limits on U.S. Highway 24-40 in east Tonganoxie
The Tonganoxie City Council agreed Monday to pass on a Kansas Department of Transportation grant to make safety improvements at two east side U.S. Highway 24-40 intersections.
Instead, the city will campaign KDOT to lower the speed limit from the current 65 mph on the highway in the eastern part of the city to 45 mph.
Last month, the Tonganoxie City Council was presented with the opportunity to apply for a KDOT corridor management grant that would provide up to $2 million to make improvements at the highway intersections of Laming Road and Stone Creek/South Park drives. The deadline for the grant application is Nov. 1.
The grant’s approval would have required the city pay for right of way acquisition, utility relocation and all engineering. City Administrator Mike Yanez said a quick preliminary estimate of those costs to the city was $285,000.
Dorothy Rose, who lives just south of the U.S. 24-40/Laming Road intersection, was the only resident speaking in favor of the proposed safety improvements, expressing doubt a reduced speed limit would make the two intersections safer.
Although they, too, agreed the intersections were dangerous, the plan was unpopular with businesses in the Stone Creek business park because it called for a grass median at Stone Creek/South Park drives. Those associated with the businesses in the business park said the plan would mean lost business from eastbound traffic unable to conveniently turn north, particularly during morning rush periods.
“Stone Creek is a dangerous intersection,” said Steve Kelly, the Overland Park man who developed the Stone Creek business park. “Something has to be done there. It makes more sense to put the traffic light at Stone Creek.
“I would like to get the rest of the area developed. This would kill us.”
Among those adding their opposition to the safety improvements as proposed because of the consequences to Stone Creek businesses were Mary Krause, owner of Mary’s Retail Liquor, and Pat Kelly, owner of Domino’s Pizza, and Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce Director Susan Freemyer. Krause and Kelly also called the intersection dangerous and supported the traffic light at Stone Creek. They also supported the speed limit reduction.
Council members, too, favored lowering the speed limit.
After prefacing his remarks with the memory of losing a daughter at a bad intersection, Councilman Dennis Bixby said the businesses put the faith in the city and its government when they located at Stone Creek. Should the city take action to harm them, it would raise taxes on homeowners and make it more difficult to recruit others to invest in the city, he said.
Bixby, too, said lowering the speed limit with more enforcement was the solution.
But it was noted the state, not the city, sets the speed limit on the highway. Assistant City Administrator Kathy Bard said KDOT rejected an annual city request to lower the speed limit on the stretch.
There are also complications with altering the proposed plan to put the traffic signal at Stone Creek/South Park drives. The U.S. 24-40 corridor plan, developed with local public participation, shows the signal at Laming Road, because Laming Road is now a collector street north of the highway and is to be extended south to Fourth Street, another future collector street.
KDOT would “push back” against any plan to place a traffic signal at Stone Creek contrary to the corridor plan, it was agreed. And any attempt to alter the plan would require approval of KDOT, the Leavenworth County Commission and Tonganoxie and Basehor city councils.
With no support for the grant application on the council, it was agreed to request KDOT lower the speed limit on the stretch. To add weight to the request, the city will seek support of that measure from Leavenworth County and the city’s state and federal legislative representatives.