Wednesday, September 09 2009
Later this month, drivers going east or west on Newburgh Road will find themselves stopping at Burkhardt Road.
In August, local officials approved turning the intersection there into a four-way stop. That change will require placing two stop signs on Newburgh Road, work that crews plan to undertake in the next couple of weeks.
The purpose is to make the intersection safer, said Brad Mills, the executive director of the Evansville Metropolitan Planning Organization. Mills said a study conducted in March found that 303 vehicles passed through there on Newburgh Road each hour. For Burkhardt, the frequency was 281 an hour.
Both counts exceeded the minimums required for stop signs to be installed at an intersection. Their concerns raised, officials next turned to accident reports.
Mills said they found 45 crashes had occurred at the intersection between Sept. 2003 and April 2009. Of those, many were “t-bones,” in which a vehicle traveling Burkhardt had been hit on the side while crossing Newburgh.
Mills estimated that a four-way stop would help to prevent 87 percent of the crashes there.
Such is the hope of Rusti VonderHaar, who complained to local officials about Newburgh and Burkhardt roads about three years ago. Two of the intersection’s features give rise to her fears: its being on a hill and its being formed with Newburgh Road on a diagonal.
Both make it difficult for drivers on Burkhardt to see cross traffic, VonderHaar said.
“That intersection, because of its curvature, is extremely dangerous,” she said.
Still, she wondered if traffic lights wouldn’t serve the purpose better. Stop signs present their own difficulties, she said.
“People can never figure out whose turn it is to go,” VonderHaar said.
Others think they have a better way to make the intersection safer: simply cut down the hill on Burkhardt Road. Joe Kiefer, who sits on the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s board, said that change would prevent further congestion.
Newburgh Road between Interstate 164 and Green River Road is one of the few stretches in Evansville where drivers can travel east or west without having to stop often, Kiefer said.
“Putting that four-way stop there, to me, ruins a nice little transportation artery,” Kiefer said.
Mills said that is one way to look at it. Another is to consider the drivers on Burkhardt Road, who now must sometimes wait a long time for a gap in traffic on Newburgh Road.
Besides, Mills said, lowering the hill would have no effect on traffic counts, which would still dictate that a four-way stop be installed.
“And that’s much more expensive than putting up a couple of signs,” he said.
Even so, Mills concedes that adding stop signs may lead to other troubles, at least in the short run.
More vehicles, for one, may be rear-ended since drivers on Newburgh Road won’t at first expect a stop at Burkhardt. To prevent such crashes, officials plan to install secondary signs that alert drivers to the approaching changes.
“But cutting down the hill would not solve the problem,” Mills said.