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Proposed ‘safety corridors’ Measure could add police, increase fines on Kellogg

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, at 6:31 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, April 8, 2012, at 1:42 p.m.

A bill that could lead to stepped up traffic enforcement and a doubling of traffic fines on Kellogg has been introduced in the Kansas Legislature.

The bill calls for the establishment of a safety council that could designate some the state’s most dangerous stretches of roadways as “safety corridors” that would be subjected to increased scrutiny by law enforcement agencies.

The proposal – known as Senate Bill No. 342 - was introduced last week and referred to the Senate Transportation Committee, which held hearings on the bill on Thursday.

Among those testifying was Wichita police Capt. Rusty Leeds, who said that from 2007 through 2011, there were more than 4,500 crashes on Kellogg within the city limits of Wichita. Those included 1,077 involving injuries or fatalities.

“By far, U.S. 54 leads the rest of the city” in the number of accidents, he said.

During that same time period, Leeds said, more than 62,000 traffic citations were issued, including 840 for driving under the influence.

The extra fines generated by the safety corridors would go into a special safety corridor fund that would be used to pay for signs, traffic enforcement and education.

Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Swartz said the bill grew out of an April 2011 accident in northeast Kansas that claimed two lives, one of them a 5-year-old boy.

The Kansas Highway Patrol said the crash occurred when a 24-year-old man heading east on the divided highway crossed the median and collided with a westbound minivan carrying Cainan Shutt of Eudora, his 23-month-old sister, and the children’s grandparents. The Highway Patrol said Pittman died at the scene, while Cainan was pronounced dead at a hospital in Overland Park.

Swarz said the crash let to the formation last year of a safety committee that looked into ways to make K-10 between Lawrence and Lenexa a safer highway.

One of the committee’s recommendation led to the installation of cable median barriers on parts of the highway. Another led to the safety corridor bill.

Schwarz said safety corridors have led to a reduction in injuries and fatalities in other states, particularly New Mexico.

If adopted in Kansas, he said, the safety corridors would be treated much the same way as highway construction zones are treated today.

If enacted, the law would allow KDOT to designate safety corridors on federal and state highways that are not in urban areas.

In Wichita and other cities, a safety corridor could be established only after the local municipal government has passed a resolution supporting the designation.

Local governments would also have the option of rescinding the designation once it has been established.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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