The push for a safer intersection near Elkhorn South High School has taken a surprising turn. It involves traffic lights already installed, but not turned on by the state. A traffic study has been completed and the state won’t give the signals the green light.
The state traffic engineer won't give the green light to traffic signals at the intersection near 204th and Pacific that leads to Elkhorn South. “So they going to wait until somebody gets killed?” asks a parent. “People are going 44 miles an hour down that road.”
The school paid $200,000 for the signals, but the state controls the switch. A recent traffic study determined there's not yet enough traffic volume to meet federal guidelines, so the state could be liable if there's a rear-end collision where traffic lights aren't warranted.
“Certainly I'm disappointed and I'm not going to give up on the thing, but I'm also not going to burn any bridges with the Department of Roads,” says Elkhorn School Superintendent Steve Baker.
The state engineer says the intersection is actually safer without traffic lights if students and parents wouldn't roll through stop signs. The state also recommends the four-way stop sign at the entrance to the school be removed because traffic backs up in the morning into oncoming traffic on busy Highway 31.
Another reason the state cited for keeping the lights off is there have not been any accidents in the intersection since the school opened two years ago.
“We may someday have an accident because those lights are there,” says a teacher.
“I think it's a mistake,” says a parent. “The lights are there.”
“Scary,” says another parent. “Young drivers not that experienced and we don't want to wait until a bad situation happens."
Elkhorn South teams are called the Storm and there may be one brewing over the state decision not to turn the traffic lights on. Baker says he's sent a letter to the governor asking for help in getting state engineers to reconsider the decision not to turn on the lights.