Reconstructed bridge still an issue for drivers

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Some people who live in Springfield south of Missouri State University are calling on the city to make the intersection of Bennett Street and Jefferson Avenue safer – again.

Drivers say they can’t always see over the bridge above Fassnight Creek, causing accidents. But it’s already been lowered once. In this KOLR 10 investigation, Daybreak Anchor Lauren Barnas looks at the data on the number of crashes since the bridge was built and the timeline of tax-payer funded construction and re-construction.

Ashton May tells a tale of caution at Jefferson and Bennett.

“Car parts, lots of glass,” she said, looking into the street. “There’s glass all in here”

May can see and hear the intersection from her house down the road.

“I can be sitting here and hear a crash or a screech and I’m like, ‘Great, there’s another one.’ I have a habit of going out and checking and making sure no one needs help.”

From 2011 through 2013, the average number of traffic crashes here is four. During summer 2014 things change.

“It started out as a storm water project,” Eric Claussen, the city’s traffic engineer for operations, explains.

Summer 2014 is when the bridge over Fassnight Creek opened to traffic.  It was a $3.8 million plan that would alleviate flooding.

“We don’t want anything out there that’s unsafe to the driving public,” Claussen said.

He’s talking about driver’s safety complaints that immediately shut it down. Drivers unable to see over the bridge caused a foot of the concrete wall to be cut down for an additional $86,000.

“I know from personal experience I can’t see around it in my car,” May said.

The city of Springfield also made signing and striping adjustments and in August 20-14 the intersection re-opened.

Five years later, neighbors are still pleading with the city.

“It’s not safe,” May said. “There are two schools nearby”

From 2015 through 2018, that’s the data we have for the intersection since the bridge re-opened, there’s a new average of 6.5 crashes per year. In 2018, there were 10.

“I don’t understand why there has to be a blockade of rock,” May said. “It’s pretty, but car accidents aren’t pretty.”

In 2015, the city published a note about four-way stops. In part, saying five or more crashes in a year could warrant additional stop signs at an intersection.

“A lot of times if an all-way stop is placed and placed in the wrong location, we’ll actually see an increase in crashes,” Claussen said.

So he put the brakes on that idea here.

“And the reason being – people will stop when it’s not warranted and so people will tend to run that stop sign,” Claussen said. “From a crash statistic standpoint, we’re not seeing a tremendous amount of crashes, but we also understand the citizen concern at that particular intersection.”

For some neighbors, it’s not necessarily about the numbers.

“I think that was when the school bus was hit, and I had been home from work one day and had also seen a motorcyclist hit at the crossing and fly,” May remembered.

Setting in motion a passion among neighbors and a potential plan.

“One of the things we’ve looked at is adding a flashing stop sign, so that’s a stop sign with LED lights surrounding it,” Claussen said.

Anything that brings additional awareness gets the green light from folks around here.

The crash data the city gets comes from the Springfield Police Department, so if crashes aren’t reported, they aren’t included in the statistics. While KOLR 10 was working on this story, the city started making changes. Two LED stop signs have been added to Bennett at Jefferson in both directions.

According to the city, the cost to do that was minimal. It cost about $1,000, which a small fraction of the multi-million dollar project.

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