Shawnee reopens to mixed motorist reactions

Saturday, June 28, 2003

With the concrete still clean and white, the curb beaming with bright yellow paint and construction signs laying on the ground, many motorists on Shawnee Boulevard looked confused Friday, just hours after the short stretch of street opened following 11 days of construction.

While the main purpose of the $96,000 improvement was to add another left-turn lane for eastbound traffic, the source of uncertainty appeared to be the removal of stop signs on Shawnee at the Old Cape Road intersection, just a 100 feet or so from East Jackson Boulevard.

The Old Cape Road and Shawnee Boulevard intersection used to be a four-way stop, but the city, upon the recommendation of a traffic engineering firm, took out Shawnee's stop signs.

The intersection was considered a priority in Crawford, Bunte and Brammeier's traffic study. City officials hope this will solve the majority of the problems without creating too many problems.

At 5 p.m. Friday, traffic flowed quickly. Some thought the traffic wasn't congested because many people continued to take detour routes.

And even though the intersection wasn't congested at rush hour, some motorists appeared confused and nearly caused accidents.

One motorist yelled profane language while waiting for a woman who was stopped where a stop sign used to be.

"This intersection has been like this for years," said Julie Kelley, who works at the Cash Depot located near the intersection. "People are still treating it like a four-way stop. We already saw one car that had to slam on its brakes because the other person thought he was going to stop."

Those types of problems will likely work themselves out over time. However, others are worried about more long-term problems.

Alice Benton, a hair stylist at Mirror Image on Old Cape Road, said it will be more difficult to get through the intersection from Old Cape Road now.

She said even when the four-way stop was there, traffic would back up to a point where patrons of her business couldn't turn into the parking lot. She fears the removal of the stop signs will only make matters worse.

Not only that, she's worried that the intersection may become unsafe.

"I sat and watched traffic for 15 minutes after they opened it and people were already speeding through there," she said. "I think there's going to be more accidents."

With an additional turn lane, city officials say the stretch can handle twice the number of vehicles and they hope that will prevent traffic from backing up past Old Cape Road. Signs that say "Do not block intersection" are in place to try to address the problem.

The mayor and city aldermen have pledged that if the situation becomes a problem, the stop signs can be put up again.

"If it doesn't work, we'll do something different," Alderman Val Tuschhoff said. "This is something that needed to be done. I'm proud of this. I think the traffic will be fine."

Benton, who hears a lot of opinions in her line of work, said a lot of people are less optimistic.

"Everyone who has sat in my chair has agreed that taking the stop signs down is a bad idea," she said. "I think it's a good idea that they've done something to that intersection because it is a bottleneck. I just hope I'm wrong about the stop signs."

The project itself went without a hitch for the most part. Kluesner Concreters of Scott City had 21 days to complete the project and the road was open in 11 days. City officials were hoping to have the intersection open for the Fourth of July weekend.

"The engineers and Kluesner Concreters did an excellent job," said city administrator Jim Roach. "I'm very pleased with it."

Some city officials were a bit disgruntled at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning. They were mildly upset that the Missouri Department of Transportation did not put up an additional signal head as was put in the plans.

Mark Phillips, traffic engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation, said an additional head could not be erected because the arm that stretches out over the street was not strong enough to support another one. So, he said, one signal will remain on the arm and one on the pole.

The intersection meets state guidelines, he said.

Should motorists become confused, MoDOT could reconsider. It would take at least six months to replace the base, pole and arm, Phillips said.

"Honestly, I don't think there's any problem," he said. "If there is, we'll act appropriately."

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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