PITTSBURG — Soon, crossing the street will be a bit safer for Pittsburg High School students.
Solutions, short and long-term, have been found to improve the safety and traffic issues near Pittsburg High School at 4th Street (Highway 126) and Free Kings Highway.
In October, USD 250 Superintendent Destry Brown discussed options with both the City of Pittsburg and the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Possible solutions were make the area a school zone which would drop the speed limit to 20 and another solution is to place a stoplight at the intersection. Any of the solutions must be approved by the Kansas Department of Transportation, Brown said.
The district was denied of a stop light at the intersection because it doesn’t meet any of the warrants, which are certain state requirements.
Recently, Brown, Kansas Representative Monica Murnan, Kansas Department of Transportation Safety & Technology Bureau Chief Brian Gower, Legislative Liaison Josh Powell, Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall had a meeting and found a four-step approach for improving the speed limit near the school and improvements at the intersection.
“We are hoping to increase safety,” Brown said. “Stop people before flying into the school zone … overall, changing some of the traffic patterns will improve some of they safety,” Brown said.
The process begins with KDOT and the city making the traffic in front of PHS a school speed zone.
Then a new drive — with the help of the county — will be constructed east of the current pick-up and drop-off driveway in front of the school’s entrance.
The new driveway will be aligned with Villa Drive and will be used for people who are parking, not just passing through to drop-off or pick-up students. Traffic dropping off students will use the current drive, including busses, and all traffic will exit onto Free Kings Highway.
"This will make for a more uniform entrance and exit while addressing safety for our crosswalks and the intersection," Pittsburg Superintendent of Schools Destry Brown said in a release.
Next, KODT will approve a four-way stop at 4th Street and Free Kings Highway and lastly — in the future — a round-about to take the four-way stop’s place.
"Although it would not be a traffic signal, stop signs can be easily installed and will allow for the implementation of Superintendent Brown’s plan which allows the buses adequate access to 4th Street," KDOT District 4 Engineer Wayne Gudmonson said in a release.
Gudmonson said several studies have been made of the intersection since 2008. Over the years improvements have been made leading up to the soon to be changes — including, the “right only” turning lane at Free Kings Highway and 4th Street, School Crosswalk sign and crosswalk visibility.
The most recent studies were in 2016 and another in 2017 after a student was hit by a car in September. Gudmonson said a roundabout was one of the findings which would improve the traffic issue at the intersection.
He said the cost of upkeep of the roundabout will be less than the stoplight. The roundabout will cost about $3 million to construct.
KDOT will be helping the city with a grant application for federal highway funds through the Highway Improvement Safety Program for the roundabout, which was one of the findings in the KDOT traffic study.
Safety is important, Hall said, and it is satisfying to have the go-ahead to make the intersection and 4th Street safer, after everyone persisted and worked together to come up with a solution after all this time.
Hall and Brown applauded Representative Murnan for helping path the way after being denied a stoplight. They also thanked everyone else who invested time into the solutions — the district, county and the state.
“Representative Murnan should not be understated,” Hall said. “She checked on us as usual and she immediately asked, ‘What can I do?’... it is good to know people can come together and make it happen.”
According to the release, Representative Murnan said she appreciated KDOT for taking the time to see if there was another solution, once more.
"We have great public servants in Pittsburg who are willing to keep after a problem and I’m pleased we have come up with a comprehensive solution,” Representative Murnan said in the release.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.