OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A seventh crash has taken place at an Overland Park intersection – in less than six months – after city traffic engineers removed four-way traffic lights as part of a pilot study to make it a two-way stop.
The crash occurred just before 1 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of 91st and Glenwood streets.
Overland Park Police Officer John Lacy said the driver of “Vehicle 1” was heading southbound on Glenwood Street and came to a stop at 91st Street.
Both north and southbound traffic on Glenwood Street must stop at 91st Street while east and westbound traffic on 91st doesn’t stop.
The driver of “Vehicle 1,” according to Lacy, then drove into the intersection, crashing into “Vehicle 2,” which was headed eastbound on 91st.
Lacy also said the driver of “Vehicle 1” suffered a leg injury, refused medical treatment and was issued a traffic ticket for failure to yield.
As the I-Team first reported in March, resident Donna Palatas started a grassroots campaign, which included a petition, to oppose the change at that intersection from a four-way stop with traffic lights to the two-way stop with stop signs there now.
Those area residents also opposed a similar change at the 91st Street and Lamar Avenue intersection from traffic lights to a four-way stop with stop signs.
No new crashes have happened at that intersection since the change was phased in at 91st and Lamar in October.
Despite the residents’ safety concerns – and six crashes at the 91st and Glenwood streets intersection since the pilot program to study the new set up began in October – the Overland Park City Council voted, 10-2, on March 1 to approve the changes city traffic engineers recommended.
Palatas, who took pictures of Tuesday’s crash, told the I-Team the latest incident is more evidence the city’s change at that intersection was a bad move.
“I don’t think this latest crash would’ve happened if the standard traffic signals were still there,” Palatas said.
Councilman Faris Farassati was one of the two council members to vote against the changes at the two intersections. He told the I-Team the crash data doesn’t support the changes the traffic engineers recommended and the council approved.
Farassati also said he believes the changes were motivated by cost savings and could set a precedent for other Overland Park intersections.
“These changes are a gamble with public safety,” Farassati said.
Cost is cited as one reason for the intersection changes due to a biking and walking trail planned for the north side of the intersection.
"To try to make room for the bicycle trail, we'd have to invest some significant dollars to move a pole, move a service box and put more money in a signal that's not warranted, just to try to get the trail a little further along," Overland Park Assistant City Traffic Engineer Bruce Wacker told the council at its March 1 meeting. "We didn't think investing money in a signal that only has 10 years of life left and is not warranted would be a good investment of taxpayer dollars and city resources."
Wacker also addressed the change from a four-way to a two-way stop at the March 1 meeting.
"We do believe that the intersection will operate safely as a two-way stop sign," he said.
Overland Park City Engineer Brian Shields recommended the changes to the intersections.
Shields told the I-Team in March there were crashes at the intersections with full traffic lights before the changes were made.
He said the main reason for ditching the traffic lights was not enough traffic to justify them.
Shields also said the changes to the intersections “aren’t etched in stone” and traffic signals could be reinstalled at some point if it’s deemed appropriate.
Overland Park City Council President Curt Skoog, who voted in favor of the intersection changes in March, said the city runs an "evidence-based government and are scientific on how we operate."
Skoog told the I-Team there were three crashes at 91st and Glenwood in 2017; two in 2018; three in 2019 and now seven in less than six months since the city made changes to the intersection.
Skoog said two of those crashes happened with flashing yellow caution lights at the intersection, which have been replaced by the two-way stop signs.
He said another one of the crashes was weather-related on snow.
Skoog said he drives through the 91st and Glenwood intersection four to five times per week.
The changes, according to Skoog, mean more wait time for drivers heading north or south on Glenwood for traffic to clear on 91st Street.
"We're monitoring the intersection and see how it goes moving forward," Skoog said. "If the trend continues, we'll take action. Right now, it's too early to tell but we'll pay close attention because we have safe intersections in Overland Park."
By contrast, Skoog said at 91st and Lamar, there were two crashes in 2017 and one in June 2020, but none in the less than six months since the city changed the intersection from four-way traffic lights to the current four-way stop signs.