In doing its homework required by the Federal Highway Safety Administration, Kansas Department of Transportation came to the same conclusion as many people locally: the junction of U.S. 56, U.S. 77, and K-150 is dangerous, and something needs to be done about it. All it took was three years to collect the data and another two years to analyze it.
I’ll admit, I was surprised at just how dangerous. Ranking it using three different criteria, the intersection is either the most dangerous or second most dangerous in the whole state, relative to quantity of traffic. I would think flashing lights, stop signs, rumble strips, and signs warning that traffic on U.S. 77 doesn’t stop would be enough, but experience says that isn’t the case.
Now that we officially have a problem intersection, it is time for KDOT to decide how to fix it, which reportedly will be done in a few months. More signs and lights won’t be enough. If what is already there doesn’t catch someone’s attention, they aren’t going to notice any more signs or lights. And a four-way stop would just result in people running stop signs from all four directions. A full, interstate-style interchange would probably be the safest, but the price is surely out of the question.
A roundabout is the clear best choice. We’ve seen it work before in Marion County, at the intersection of U.S. 50 and U.S. 77. That intersection developed a nasty — and well-earned — reputation as a dangerous intersection before a roundabout was constructed. The safety record for that intersection has taken a definite turn for the better in the years since the roundabout was built.
I’m happy to say that State Highway Safety Engineer Steven Buckley indicated in a conversation that a roundabout is being discussed at KDOT as a possible solution. Now it’s up to the decision-makers to determine what should be done. If they pay attention to previous results, the answer should be clear.
— Adam Stewart