MoDOT project in East Sunshine aims to reduce crashes by restricting left turns

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 7:04 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - In 2024, Missouri’s Department of Transportation will invest $8 million along Sunshine Street east of Glenstone for safety improvements. Part of the project involves restricting left turns along that corridor and closing some driveways into businesses.

That part of Sunshine carries around 32,000 cars per day, and at a recent Springfield City Council meeting, local and state traffic officials spoke about the corridor’s high rate of wrecks. A crash study in that area found that from 2016-2020 there were 728 crashes with five fatalities and 13 causing disabling injuries. There were 11 pedestrian and seven bicycle crashes.

Brett Foster, a traffic engineer with Springfield, told the council that most of the crashes along East Sunshine were because of center turn lanes where drivers can turn left in both directions.

Foster showed the council a diagram of an intersection filled with arrows and dots representing 74 potential conflict points that drivers had to process when they came through.

“When you’re driving a vehicle, whether you realize it or not, you’re making decisions the entire time,” Foster explained. “The more things that impact that decision increases the chances of things not turning out well. When you’re moving, turning, accelerating, or braking, you’re considering what all the vehicles are doing around you and what you’re doing to make sure you don’t hit each other. So when you look at 74 conflict points where vehicles could possibly hit each other, that’s a lot of opportunities to get in a crash. We’ve all heard of ‘playing chicken’ and who has the right-of-way when you’re approaching another vehicle in two-way left turn lanes. Well, 74 percent of crashes are a result of somebody attempting to make a left-hand turn in an uncontrolled lane.”

So starting in 2024, MoDOT will begin $8 million worth of changes along East Sunshine that includes:

- resurfacing Glenstone Ave. to Route 125

--Sidewalk (ADA) improvements

-- Traffic signal improvements, including complete traffic signal rebuild at Enterprise Ave. and signal modifications at Plaza Avenue, Eastgate Ave./Bedford Avenue, Deeswood Ave./Ingram Mill Rd. and Blackman Rd.

-- Intersection Improvements like right turn lanes at westbound Enterprise Ave. and eastbound Ingram Mill Rd.

--Improve safety and traffic operations by managing access

Part of that attempt to improve safety involves a series of raised median islands, starting just east of the traffic lights at Hy-Vee, that will prevent cars from turning left in areas where studies have shown large crashes.

That means that some drivers needing to turn left to reach a business will have to drive down to a stop light and turn around to get back to their destination, and MoDOT is already getting negative feedback from people who don’t like that idea.

In addition, ten businesses will have part of their driveways removed by MoDOT, including one owned by Springfield City Council member Richard Ollis, whose Ollis/Akers/Arney Insurance and Business Advisors is located near the intersection of Sunshine and Enterprise.

“There is no question that their plan is going to improve safety,” Ollis said. “However, it is going to reduce, limit, and in some cases eliminate access for businesses.”

MoDOT’s plan would remove one of Ollis’ two driveways while the other driveway will be across from a new median.

“It doesn’t look like anybody is going to be able to make a left turn into our one access point that we’ll have left,” he said with a laugh. “There are many, many businesses up and down Sunshine who are going to be dealing with similar or even worse access issues, so I think there’s a lot that needs to be worked through here.”

At the city council meeting, MoDOT officials told the council they’re willing to meet with concerned people and plan on holding meetings with business owners.

“I hope that happens because so far, there hasn’t been any interaction to speak of,” Ollis said. “The thing I haven’t seen so far is their ability to work with business owners concerning not only the access points but what other changes we’ll have to make on our properties because of what they’re doing. But I’m taking them at their word and hoping they’ll be proactive in working with businesses. We would like to think there are areas where we could compromise on medians and other access points. We’d like to work together to problem-solve rather than just saying, ‘No, we’re drawing a line in the sand, and we’re going to eliminate access to all these businesses up and down the street.’ So I think there’s a common ground we can come to if we’re all willing to keep an open mind to make it both safe and business-friendly.”

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