By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
EL RENO – Canadian County leaders are hearing positive reviews about recent safety upgrades at what has been called one of the county’s most dangerous intersections.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation crews in mid-February installed a four-way stop at State Highway 66 and Banner Road and narrowed traffic to one lane in each direction on SH-66 as an interim upgrade. There are now large stop signs with lights for traffic in all four directions.
“Everybody seems to be happy with what’s out there right now,” District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart said of the safety improvements. “People who have just avoided that intersection say they’re now feeling safe to go through it.”
Previously, the intersection had stops signs only for northbound and southbound motorists on Banner Road who had to stop and yield to oncoming SH-66 traffic.
Commissioner Stewart talked about the public’s positive response in his report at the March Yukon Legislative Breakfast.
With the 55-mph speed limit along Highway 66 approaching Banner Road, drivers traveling eastbound and westbound are now being conditioned to slow down and stop when reaching the intersection.
Advance warning signs and flashing red lights in all directions also direct motorists as they near the SH-66/Banner Road intersection, which is just west of Yukon.
“Everybody has to stop and take a little extra time to be extra cautious and safe at that intersection,” ODOT spokeswoman Lisa Shearer-Salim said.
This intersection has been the site of several dozen serious traffic collisions over the past 25 years, include a crash last November involving a semi-truck that killed Yukon motorcyclist and businessman Ray Davis.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol cited the semi-truck driver, Oklahoma City’s Donald Biffle, for failing to yield and causing the crash. Biffle has been charged with negligent homicide.
“Somebody ran that stop sign who killed somebody,” ODOT Public Relations Director Terri Angier said. “People need to realize the solution is in their hands – driver attention.”
The recent temporary improvements were made to the intersection because it takes time for drivers’ habits to change, Angier noted.
Canadian County Commissioners, at their weekly meeting next Monday, are expected to consider a resolution for Canadian County to participate with ODOT in a paving and saving project at SH-66 and Banner Road.
ODOT officials, working with District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader, have studied possible “permanent” safety upgrades for the intersection.
High on the list is a roundabout, which Angier said would provide a “physical slow-down” for approaching vehicles.
“You can’t ‘run’ a roundabout like you can run a stoplight or stop sign,” ODOT’s PR chief said. “With the roundabout, you have to slow down and pay attention. That is another contributing factor besides lower long-term maintenance that really makes it very, very attractive.”
Another possible option that has been discussed in installing new traffic signals, which ODOT traffic engineer Brian Taylor estimated would take up to three years.
Angier offered the ultimate solution.
“If people are still running that stop sign, I promise you the only thing that’s going to work now is people realizing that safety is in their hands,” she said. “That’s what I’m going to call the solution.”