NOTE: We contacted the Blair Police about this article. We were told, to their knowledge, there have been no reports or complaints about the intersection at 16th and South streets.
In Blair, Nebraska, residents took to social media to voice concerns about what some say is a potentially hazardous intersection on 16th Street, near Central School and the Washington County courthouse. The discussion, which took place on Facebook, highlighted the community’s shared worries about limited visibility, parking issues, and a lack of proper traffic control measures at this intersection. (We reported on a similar situation recently, and it’s clear that concern continues to grow.)
Obstructed View Leading to Dangerous Situations
One concern expressed by residents is that parked vehicles near the intersection obscure the view of oncoming traffic. “You have to pull all the way past the vehicle in the space on the right-hand (closest to the corner) in order to see the traffic. That space should be eliminated in my opinion,” one resident wrote.
Another added “There are a few intersections like this that anyone driving a sedan will have trouble seeing oncoming traffic. Those in higher profile vehicles may not have much issue.” This indicates the problem might be widespread, affecting several intersections in the area.
Enforcement and Regulation
One concerned citizen pointed out the “triangle of vision” regulation might not be enforced. He stated that he doesn’t understand why the corners are legal, mentioning, “I’ve heard of people having to lower fences. Cut out flowers and move retaining walls for this. But yet parking a vehicle is perfectly fine.”
Zoning Regulations allow a 42-inch high maximum on fences in the front yard. In the case of a corner lot, no fence constructed in the second front yard (the side yard abutting the street) of a corner lot shall exceed 48 inches in height. Fences that are located in the side and back yards can be up to 6 feet in height. Finally, no fence, or other object, can exceed 30-inches in height in the sight triangle. (Article 11, Section 1102)Source: https://www.blairnebraska.org/Faq.aspx?QID=167
Furthermore, someone else highlighted that, “The last spot is not a parking spot but people use it anyways. Also, there is a fire hydrant on that corner that you’re not supposed to park within 50 feet of.” This suggests that a lack of enforcement regarding parking rules could be contributing to the issue.
Potential Solutions and Community Involvement
Many residents believe converting the intersection into a four-way stop could mitigate the dangers. However, one person mentioned the city previously rejected this idea because it is an emergency route. She urged, “It’s a very busy intersection that needs to be reviewed again.”
One long-standing resident takes a proactive approach, “I did call city hall, and spoke to someone who said the sight triangles on that corner are actually fine–there AREN’T supposed to be vehicles parallel parked so close to the corner. But then it becomes a law enforcement issue too.”
Another supported the idea of bringing the issue to city council’s attention. She stated, “Or a 4-way stop….this would be great to bring to the city council attention.”
Some residents mentioned the problem isn’t new, and one wrote, “My mom had an accident about 20 years ago at that intersection for that reason. Someone pulled out in front of her I’m guessing because of the parking situation.”
A local man also implied that recent changes near the courthouse might have made the problem worse, stating, “I believe this is an unfortunate result of adding onto the courthouse with the new sheriff’s office. It eliminated some of the parking that was available & I would imagine brought more people to the courthouse.”
The Dangers of Heavy Truck Traffic
Another major concern in Blair is the heavy truck traffic, especially in the downtown area. A tragic incident occurred at the intersection of 19th and Washington Street, where a boy named Jaycoby Estrada, a sixth-grader at Otte Blair Middle School, was fatally struck by a semi-truck while riding his bicycle.
Raeann Smith, expressed her concerns saying, “Well the big trucks go too fast, they come too close to the cars that are parked, a person getting out, has to be very careful or they’ll get hit, or their door or mirror will get taken out.”
Other residents, including Crystal Flannery, believe that the heavy truck traffic is not only dangerous but also detrimental to the downtown businesses. She mentioned that the noise pollution and the difficulty of navigating around the trucks deter people from shopping downtown, instead opting for places like Walmart where they don’t have to deal with these issues.
The community is looking for solutions to reduce the truck traffic in the town. City council member Jon Stewart (2019) said that the city is in the bidding process for a bypass that would connect Highway 30 and Highway 75 on the south end of town. He estimates that this would reduce truck traffic by a quarter. However, for more roads to be built to divert traffic, it would require a substantial investment and possibly an increase in taxes, as well as federal and state assistance.
What’s striking is that both the issues of the hazardous intersection on 16th Street and the heavy truck traffic are indicative of a larger problem – the need for comprehensive traffic planning and management in Blair. Whether it’s the obstructed views at intersections due to parked cars or the dangers posed by heavy trucks, the community is looking for proactive measures.
Some Blair residents, who voiced concerns about the 16th Street intersection, suggest conducting an informal survey of problematic intersections. Combining this with the concerns about heavy truck traffic, it’s evident that a community-wide approach to addressing traffic issues is needed.
Solutions From Other Small Towns
Blair, like many small towns, faces traffic challenges, including dangerous intersections and heavy truck traffic. By looking at how other small towns have tackled similar issues, Blair can consider adopting tested and proven solutions. Here are three small towns that faced similar concerns and the strategies they used:
1. Truckee, California: Truckee faced heavy truck traffic passing through its historic downtown, posing safety risks and negatively affecting local businesses. Truckee established a bypass that allowed trucks to avoid the downtown area. Additionally, the town implemented traffic calming measures such as narrowing lanes and installing pedestrian-friendly crossings.
2. West Jefferson, North Carolina: West Jefferson faced an increase in traffic volume in the downtown area, which led to congestion and safety concerns for pedestrians. West Jefferson adopted a streetscape plan that involved widening sidewalks, improving crosswalks, adding green spaces, and installing street furniture. Additionally, the town improved parking options by creating designated parking areas that facilitated better traffic flow.
3. Zionsville, Indiana: Zionsville struggled with dangerous intersections due to high traffic volumes and poor sightlines. Zionsville installed roundabouts at problematic intersections, which proved to be safer and more efficient than traditional stop sign or traffic signal-controlled intersections.
Applying Solutions to Blair, Nebraska
Inspired by Truckee’s solution, Blair should expedite the proposed bypass that connects Highway 30 and Highway 75. This would divert heavy truck traffic away from the downtown area, reducing noise pollution and improving safety for pedestrians and motorists.
Drawing from West Jefferson’s experience, Blair can also implement a streetscape plan that includes traffic calming measures. This could include widening sidewalks in downtown Blair, especially around the Washington County Courthouse area, to ensure pedestrian safety. Installing pedestrian-friendly crossings and adding green spaces could make downtown Blair more appealing and accessible to both residents and visitors.
Considering Zionsville’s success with roundabouts, Blair can also explore installing roundabouts at dangerous intersections such as 16th and South Street, and 19th and Washington Street. Roundabouts can improve traffic flow and reduce the chances of severe accidents compared to traditional intersections.
By adapting successful strategies from other small towns like Truckee, West Jefferson, and Zionsville, Blair, Nebraska has the opportunity to address its traffic concerns in a comprehensive and effective manner. Through a combination of bypasses, traffic calming measures, and roundabouts, Blair can create a safer and more pleasant environment for its residents and businesses. Community involvement and collaboration with local authorities will be key to successfully implementing these solutions.
As the community in Blair rallies together to address these traffic issues, it’s evident that residents are keen on finding solutions. Through collective engagement, the community is not only raising awareness but also looking at possible courses of action. With both local and governmental support, it is imperative to develop strategies that will enhance safety and convenience for Blair’s residents.
The unfortunate incidents, such as the one that claimed Jaycoby Estrada’s life, serve as a reminder of the urgency and importance of such measures. It is crucial for the community and authorities to work together in developing and implementing solutions to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents.
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