City Commission Puts Stop to Third Street Closing, Roundabouts


By Jon A. Brake

The Manhattan City Commission earned their money Tuesday night. The Commissioners rejected the Third Street closing and the installation of two roundabouts.

On February 19 the City Staff hit the Commission with a request to close Third Street by installing a raised median along Bluemont Ave. from Tuttle Creek Boulevard to 4th Street. If the median were to be put in it would stop all traffic except right hand turns.

Area business owners attended the meeting and spoke against closing Third St.

Several items reported in the February meeting were proven to not be true. A report given by Staff said: "Bluemont Avenue and 3rd Street is the worst intersection in Manhattan with respect to crash rate and rate of injury producing crashes."

Attorney Derrick Roberson told the Commission that according to the City records crashes at 3rd Street and Bluemont had dropped each of the last three years. And in fact it was not the worst intersection in Manhattan. He pointed out that Wal-Mart parking lot has more accidents than 3rd and Bluemont.

At a later Riley County Law Board Meeting the Riley County Police Department was asked if 3rd and Bluemont was a "problem"? The Board was told the intersection was not a problem for the RCPD.

At the February meeting Staff told the Commission that the Kansas Department of Transportation had approved the plan for a raised median. This was true. A letter in the packet from KDOT official Chris Hoffman stated that KDOT had looked at the plan and approved it with caveats.

When asked by the Free Press about the plan Hoffman said that the raised median was the only plan given to KDOT to approve. He said they would look at other plans.

At Tuesday nights meeting Hoffman spoke to the Commission and said that he could see that both the median and a roundabout would work. He was not encouraging about other ideas.

Huffman had given the Commissioners an e-mail that stated: "The improvements required on US-24 highway (Tuttle Creek Blvd.) at Bluemont are not a result of KDOT’s actions nor does this highway appear on the published program of indexed KDOT projects, therefore KDOT will not participate in the funding of these improvements."

In other words, the one to three million project will be paid for by the City of Manhattan. But, by the problem at this intersection not being listed on the "index" means that KDOT does not consider it a big problem. If they did they would find a way to help pay the cost.

At Tuesday’s meeting the Commissioners had a hard time getting information from staff, Hoffman and Tom Swenson with TranSystems about why other plans would not work. At one point Commissioner Brad Everett told City Manager Ron Fehr: "I knew the answer before you every answered it, but I can get them to tell me."

At Tuesday’s meeting the Staff were asking the Commission to:

1. Remove the traffic signal at Bluemont and 3rd Street; 2. Install raised non-traversable median along Bluemont Avenue from Tuttle Creek Boulevard to 4th Street; 3. Install traffic signal at Bluemont Avenue and 4th Street; 4. Provide geometric improvements to the intersection of Bluemont Avenue and 4th Street to provide dedicated left turn lanes on all four legs of the intersection; 5. Widen Bluemont Avenue from east of 5th Street to Tuttle Creek Boulevard to accommodate existing and projected traffic demands. and 6. Tuttle Creek Boulevard and Bluemont Avenue intersection improvements including but not limited to, traffic signal improvements, drainage improvements and geometric improvements to accommodate existing and future traffic demands."

What they got was a motion to "study" other alternatives for the intersection. Three of the Commissioners do not want to hurt the Third Street businesses and said so.

What the Commission did not tell the public was that they had received a letter last week telling them that the Manhattan Town Center may be sold and the purchaser may want to develop the Third Street area. Why spend millions on Third Street now if the area may be redeveloped?

The Citizens of Manhattan and the Third Street business owners have three Commissioners that are doing a very good job, Commissioners Ed Klimec, Brad Everett and Mark Taussig.