K-10 panel to recommend higher fines, tougher enforcement

A committee studying the safety of Kansas Highway 10 from Lawrence east to Interstate 435 agreed Tuesday night to ask the Kansas Legislature to designate the four-lane highway as a “highway safety corridor” to increase fines for traffic infractions and allow for additional enforcement on the busy commuter road.

Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, attended the meeting in Eudora and indicated he would begin working on a bill to propose for the 2012 legislative session.

“It’s my understanding this would mean enhanced enforcement and increased fines so that we make people aware that we have a safety issue here, and we’re serious” about drivers obeying the speed limit and traffic laws, said Rick Walker, a De Soto city council member.

It was the first concrete recommendation from the committee formed in the wake of the April 16 cross-median crash near Eudora that killed two of the city’s residents, including 5-year-old Cainan Shutt.

Gov. Sam Brownback has ordered the Kansas Department of Transportation to work with Douglas County and Johnson County residents and officials to study KDOT’s policy for placing cable median barriers on K-10 and make other safety recommendations.

Clay Adams, KDOT’s northeast Kansas district engineer who is co-chairman of the committee with Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson, said other states have targeted dangerous stretches of highways with higher fines and tougher enforcement. Hopson said after the meeting he also planned to ask the Eudora Police Department to patrol for speeding drivers more on the portion of K-10 that is in the city limits.

Members of the Johnson County Commission last month proposed a pilot project to install a cable median barrier along two portions of K-10 where more than one cross-median fatality crash occurred since 2000 — a two-mile stretch near K-10 and Kansas Highway 7 in Johnson County estimated to cost $250,000 and the one-mile portion in Eudora near the April 16 accident estimated at $125,000. Johnson County as part of the plan would provide the state with 20 percent of the funds for the Johnson County stretch.

Adams also said Tuesday KDOT has asked Dean Sicking, a University of Nebraska civil engineering professor, to study one-mile stretches of the state’s four-lane roads and identify dangerous “hot spots” that might be candidates for a cable median barrier due to the number of accidents and other factors like speed.

Cainan Shutt’s grandmother Carie Lawrence, a committee member, said hundreds of people have signed a petition asking the state to install cable median barriers because they believe K-10 is an unsafe highway. KDOT officials have said cable median barriers won’t stop all injuries and deaths.

“I’m not here to say we don’t want to put cable median barriers up on K-10,” Adams said. “We just want to make sure that if we do we don’t create a problem worse than what we have out there now.”

Adams also told committee members KDOT has awarded a $4.3 million bid to Hamm Co. of Perry to begin work on expanding shoulders on K-10 in Douglas County and installing rumble strips on the inside shoulder meant to alert drivers who veer onto it. The project, scheduled to begin in September and end Nov. 4, also includes milling and repaving of the driving lanes.

By George Diepenbrock

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