The newly reconstructed intersection at 19th and Harrison adjacent to Great Bend Middle School will become a four-way stop. The change will be implemented when the junction is opened for traffic with the start of classes Thursday, Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis told the City Council Monday night.
“Part of the design is to make that intersection a four-way stop,” he said. “Engineers had recommended that.”
The question for city officials was when to initiate the change, he said. “We were trying to figure out when this would get done, if we needed to institute the stops right away or if it was going to interfere with the start of school.”
They were a little concerned because the north- and south-bound lanes on Harrison have not had to stop for years, with only east-west traffic on 19th having stop signs. They hesitated to make the switch without a public notice campaign.
“But with school starting Thursday, we think that there’s adequate time for people to be notified,” he said. They are relying on news media and social media to spread the word.
“We think it’s important to have those stop signs installed on day one of school so people will start getting accustomed to that,” Francis said. He did say the Great Bend Police Department will give a “grace period” to allow motorists to make the adjustment.
In answering questions from council members who were hearing about this for the first time, Francis said it was part of the original plan. But, “I’ll be honest, it caught me a little off guard,” he said. He had reviewed the plans for overall design, but hadn’t paid attention to the signage.
“So I was I was kind of a little unaware until just within the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I thought we don’t want to just spring this people. We’re pretty confident that we can get the word out.”
They have talked about the possibility of adding some flashing lights to get people’s attention, at least in the in the near term. Once getting school traffic starts flowing, people will start getting used to it, he said.
“I think it’s very, very much needed,” Francis said.
There were concerns from the council the change will slow traffic, and cause it to back up in the mornings and afternoons as school opens and lets out for the day.
“It will a little bit,” he said. “And in some regards, we needed it. Harrison is kind of a raceway sometimes.”
He is “cautiously optimistic” that traffic congestion will be minimal.
The revamping of the intersection was one of two Community Development Block Grant projects, with the other being the now-completed resurfacing of Broadway. The bid for both from Venture Corporation of Great Bend was $1,079,640.50 and is partially funded by a Community Development Block Grant, which will reimburse the city 50% of eligible costs up to $600,000. The city’s portion comes to $692,000.