By Conrad Dudderar
A four-way stop is being installed this week and a construction of a roundabout is expected by the end of 2020 at a high-profile central Canadian County intersection just west of Yukon.
District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader has been working with state transportation officials to make safety improvements at the State Highway 66/Banner Road intersection – site of several fatality and dozens of injury crashes over the past 25 years.
“We’re trying to make that intersection safe,” Commissioner Hader said.
The initial proposal agreed to last December was to install full traffic signals in place of the flashing lights at what many motorists call a “dangerous” intersection.
However, ODOT traffic engineer Brian Taylor estimated it would take at two to three years for the new signals to be installed.
The plan has evolved in recent weeks.
“Now we’ve decided to create a roundabout there, which we feel is a better safety solution,” Commissioner Hader said.
Canadian County will pay engineering costs to design the new roundabout to move the project ahead – and work is expected to be finished by the end of 2020.
“I do think this will be a better fix overall,” Commissioner Hader said.
INTERIM SAFETY MEASURES
Now, there are amber lights flashing east and west on SH-66 and stop signs on Banner Road for northbound and southbound traffic.
After a traffic collision last fall that killed Yukon businessman Ray Lee Davis, state and county officials agreed to place stop signs in all four directions.
Davis, 73, was killed last November in a traffic collision at the SH-66/Banner Road intersection when the motorcycle he was driving collided with a semi-truck and trailer.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol investigators say Donald Garrett Biffle, 26, failed to stop and pulled out into Davis’ path from Banner Road. The Oklahoma City man has been charged in Canadian County District Court with negligent homicide.
An interim safety change at the SH-66/Banner Road intersection – the new four-way stop with flashing red lights – is to “help us improve safety on a more immediate nature”, according to ODOT spokeswoman Lisa Shearer-Salim.
“By the end of the day on Feb. 19, that intersection will be narrowed to one lane in each direction on State Highway 66 and it will become a four-way stop,” Shearer-Salim said.
“Currently, it is a two-way stop where motorists only have to stop and yield at Banner Road to the oncoming highway traffic.”
Canadian County has purchased large advanced warning “stop ahead” signs with flashing lights to be installed north and south on Banner Road, according to Commissioner Hader.
Traffic on SH-66 will be narrowed to one lane in each direction at the intersection through the end of 2020. County and state officials encourage drivers to be extra cautious when traveling through the area.
“We’re going to create a situation where everybody has to stop and take a little extra time to be extra cautious and safe at that intersection,” Shearer-Salim said.
THE PERMANENT SOLUTION
These interim safety improvements will start to condition drivers to get used to the permanent solution – the roundabout.
“We’re working closely with Canadian County Commissioners,” Shearer-Salim said. “They will be the ones paying for that engineering design work. They had originally asked us to look closely at several different options for that intersection and a roundabout was one of them.
“It looks like it will provide a lot of safety benefits for a lot less maintenance cost in the long term. It also will essentially slow down traffic and eliminate conflict points. We hope this will create a safer environment for all motorists.”
The new roundabout construction will cost “up to” an estimated $450,000, although a more precise total won’t be known until design work is done.
“We think it’s going to be comparable to what the (signal) lights would have been,” ODOT Public Relations Director Terri Angier said.
Angier credited Commissioner Hader, who had advocated for a roundabout from the start.
“They found a way to fit (the roundabout) into the existing right-of-way without acquiring more right-of-way, which initially caused us to not look at it as seriously,” Angier said.
The roundabout will provide a physical slow-down for motorists crossing through the SH-66/Banner Road intersection.
“You can’t run a roundabout like you can run a stoplight,” Angier said. “There’s no barriers to somebody running a stoplight or a stop sign. … With a roundabout, you have to slow down and pay attention. That was another contributing factor – besides the long-term maintenance – that really made it very, very attractive.”
Plans call for the roundabout to be finished by the end of this year.
“As soon as the design is ready, we’re going to go to work,” Angier said. “That is the plan. They are moving very expeditiously on getting the design done.”