Senator David Pearce – Capitol Report for the Week of April 4

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Improving Safety On Highway 50

My work as a state senator requires me to travel all the time, driving from my home in Warrensburg, across the 21st District, back and forth to the Capitol and all across the state. I see the best and worst examples of our state’s roadways during my long commutes, and one of the most dangerous sections of road I’ve encountered – the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and State Route 131 – is located right in my district.

Less than a month ago, a fatal crash that resulted in the death of a high school sophomore and three people being critically hurt occurred at the 50/131 interchange. One week later another crash at the same site resulted in a 19-year-old suffering serious injuries. The number of traffic fatalities in Johnson County this year already equal the total number from last year according to The Daily Star-Journal. Since this intersection is one of the most dangerous sections of roadway in the county, safety improvements need to be made in the immediate future to prevent tragedies like these from occurring.

According to a March 31 news release from The Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) Kansas City District, the Department has opened a scoping study on the 50/131 intersection to highlight possible safety improvements that can be made to the site. Following is a section of the release:

The intersection was previously identified as a possible need for safety improvements but has come to public attention lately due to two high-profile incidents. From the time period of 2010-2014, there were 30 crashes, one fatality, not including the most recent incident.

The department has added several safety features already to the area to warn approaching motorists of cross route traffic, including intersection warning lights, flashing yellow light and offset lefts (installed in 2011) to facilitate safer left turns.

040716While MoDOT will study multiple potential safety installations for the roadways, one of the most promising enhancements is a special kind of intersection called a J-turn. J-turns help mitigate the dangerous interactions that occur when drivers have to navigate across incoming lanes of traffic to make a left turn. These intersections force drivers to first turn right along with the flow of traffic, merge into the left lane, then perform a J-turn into the other direction. By installing J-turns at the 50/131 intersection, MoDOT could eliminate the danger of having to cross over busy lanes of highway to reach another road. This graphic from MoDOT’s website illustrates how J-turns work.

J-turns implemented at a similar intersection, 50/58 in Johnson County, resulted in a 100 percent decrease in traffic collisions since they were installed – from 28 crashes in 2010-2014, down to zero in 2015-2016.

Improving our state’s roadway safety requires establishing an adequate transportation budget, which is something that the Senate is currently working on and will continue to handle until adjournment in May. Protecting drivers in the 21st District and across Missouri is a priority for me, and my fellow senators and I will work to make our state’s roadways a safer place for all.

As always, please feel free to contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and trying to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at 866-277-0882 (toll-free) or (573) 751-2272, or by fax at (573) 526-7381.

Senator David Pearce serves Caldwell, Carroll, Howard, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Ray and Saline counties in the 21st State Senatorial District.