There will be another public comment session held in March to discuss final design plans for the Broadway and Harrison intersection, and discussion of the current comment process became heated when the Great Bend City Council met Monday night.
City Engineer Robert Winiecke suggested that the consensus of opinion at the last comment session, held on Jan. 10 and involving about 20 local residents, involved moving ahead with the removal of the “island” on the east side of the intersection so a left-turn lane can be installed. Also, there are two trees at the intersection that interrupt the sight line, making the intersection more dangerous.
As the discussion continued, and opinions grew heated, City Administrator Howard Partington explained that this issue has continued to come up every few years for a long time, and whether traffic signals are installed or not, it’s likely to keep coming up.
“It’s a political intersection,” the city administrator said, referring back to the many times the issue has been raised in the past. “I’ve seen council, after council, after council have to deal with it.”
And the issue has always boiled down to an urgency to provide traffic signals to make it easier for drivers who have left children at the middle school to get quick access onto Broadway. That intersection is simply not a problem the rest of the day, Partington urged.
What the council needs to keep in mind — Partington added after it was suggested the city could get sued if there is another serious accident at the intersection and the council has not paid for the signals — is that traffic signals are not the approved action, based on engineering studies. “We’re going against the engineering technology, to put in a traffic signal.”
A year ago, Partington argued to move ahead with the signal in order to move the council beyond the issue. However at that time, it appeared signals could be installed, costing the city about $100,000. Monday night, Partington said it now appears that is going to cost the city about $200,000.
“I think it’s the wrong thing to do,” the city administrator said.
Council members Dana Dawson and Randy Myers both urged that, since the council has already voted in favor of the signals, even with the city paying the full cost, that it move ahead with that.
Dawson said he would not be opposed to there being another comment session to discuss the design of the turn lane, but that discussion of the signal should stop. “I don’t think we have to have any more opinions,” Dawson said. “I don’t either,” Myers added.
Councilman Bill Berryman suggested that it makes sense for the city to move ahead with the installation of a left turn lane and then see if that, along with the improvement of the sight line, makes the traffic improve. That would cost the city a lot less, if it works, he suggested.
Partington noted that he understands that without the signals, the council members have people “growling” at them, but he said installing signals won’t stop that. “I guarantee you’re going to have people growling at you” wondering why the city is spending all that money on the signals.
A date for the March comment session has not been set and will be announced by the city engineer later.