Traffic clogs the four-way stop at the intersection of 55th Street South and Meridian at the beginning and end of the Campus High school day.
Now, Sedgwick County is partnering with the Haysville school district to address congestion by installing turn lanes into the school parking lot and a traffic light at the intersection. The addition of sidewalks on the north side of 55th Street means students will no longer have to walk alongside the road.
The project will cost roughly $1.16 million, with the county and district splitting the cost of the turn lanes and the county picking up the tab for the sidewalks and traffic light.
Construction will cost the county $678,526 and the district $478,527, said Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell.
“The turn lanes and everything have the value for the school district,” O’Donnell said. “The intersection with the new traffic signals — that is a big benefit not only to the school district, but to everyone who lives in Haysville and travels that part of south Meridian, so that’s why the county is eating that cost.”
In the last four years, there have been about 15 accidents around the high school — most of them minor, O’Donnell said.
“We just want to keep kids safe coming and going from school,” said Clint Schutte, Haysville schools assistant superintendent for business and finance, who collaborated with O’Donnell to make the partnership happen.
The district asked the county to conduct a traffic study of the area to see if a light at the intersection was warranted. The results surprised them, Schutte said.
“It really wasn’t at the intersection,” he said. “The majority of accidents had to do with someone turning in or turning out of our property, and so we looked at safety solutions.”
Turn lanes seemed to be the best option for preventing accidents.
A traffic light at the intersection may not be absolutely necessary now, but O’Donnell said that based on growth patterns, it will likely be justified within the next five years. He said it makes financial sense to roll the turn lanes, traffic light and the sidewalk into one project.
“It saves the taxpayer an awful lot of money when we do everything at one time,” O’Donnell said.
“What we’ve seen historically is government will do a road project that makes sense for today instead of a road project that makes sense for the next decade. This is a project that will make sense for a very long time.”
A petition for the project went before the Haysville school board in May 2018.
“There was concern because the board really feels they should not have to pick up the cost of what should belong to another municipality,” Schutte said of the road work. “However, they also looked at the county’s budget and where they were with projects, and that if we didn’t get on board, it could take longer.
“The board just didn’t want to expose our kids to that safety concern for longer.”
The project hasn’t yet gone up for bid, but construction is set to start May 1, 2020. Schutte said he hopes it will be completed by the time the school year starts.
He said the partnership between the district and the county is a victory for community safety.
“It really was a good example of multiple jurisdictions looking at a safety concern for the whole community and then doing what they felt was best to ensure that everybody tried to stay safe.”