Commissioners agree to lower speed limit on unofficial K-268 detour

In addition to taking time to adopt next year’s budget, Osage County commissioners spent a good part of Monday dealing with traffic issues.

The commission heard from Gary Summers, trustee of the Junction Township Board, and Dorothy Brecheisen, owner of Breck’s Green Acres Restaurant, who told of problems on area roads since a bridge replacement project recently began on state Highway 268, near Vassar. They said drivers have begun to use area township roads as an unofficial detour around the bridge project located approximately 4.77 miles east of the U.S. Highway 75 and K-268 intersection. The official detour set by the Kansas Department of Transportation routes drivers south through Lyndon to state Highway 68 then east through Quenemo and north to K-268, measured as 14.5 miles by KDOT. 

Summers and Brecheisen said the traffic on the township roads is hazardous due to heavy traffic, drivers traveling too fast, and dust that obscures the roadway.

“Besides my business, somebody’s going to get killed out there,” Brecheisen said, noting the construction had also affected traffic to her restaurant. She also reported hearing of a driver getting lost south of the highway on country roads while trying to get around the bridge project.

Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall said it was the commissioners’ understanding that the only way to change speed limits on county or township roads was by conducting a traffic study, which he said could cost the township several thousand dollars and take up to six weeks to complete.

Kuykendall said the township had authority to install cautionary signs, but Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn noted such speed limit signs were not enforceable and depended upon “whether people are paying attention or not.”

“They’re not paying attention to the stop signs,” Summers said, pointing to another danger caused by the unofficial detour.

During the discussion, county counselor Caleb Crook researched statutes to determine the county’s authority to set speed limits, and then advised he believed the law allowed the county to set temporary speed limits without conducting a traffic study.

“A local authority can set speed limits without a study based on reasonableness to make it safe,” Crook said. “We could make the argument that a traffic study is not reasonable and a lower speed limit will make it safer.”

He said that if someone was cited for exceeding the speed limit and challenged it in court “we can defend it based on the reasonableness of it.”

The commissioners and Dunn discussed how to effectively enforce the speed limit if enacted, with Kuykendall suggesting that deputies should “drive that road, just to have a little more presence.”

Dunn agreed it was her office’s responsibility to enforce speed limits.

“I’m the one that gets the brunt of it – my office and my staff,” Dunn said, adding she wanted any speed limit change to be legal.

“If it’s to be enforced, I want to make sure it’s according to law,” she said.

Dunn also noted that reducing the speed too much could also cause hazards.

“We don’t want a speed limit so slow that it will cause more problems than we’ve got,” she said.

The commissioners considered the speed that should be allowed on the township road, which in the state of Kansas is 55 mph unless otherwise posted. Osage County Commissioner Carl Meyer said that due to recent dust conditions, drivers shouldn’t be traveling more than 30 mph on unpaved roads, but said he’d agree to setting the speed at 35 mph, which “is fast enough for a gravel road.”

Also discussed was the dust problem, with Summers and Brecheisen saying they had spoken with a KDOT representative that suggested the state would provide dust control for the road. Osage County road and bridge supervisor Glen Tyson confirmed he had provided estimated costs to apply dust control chemical along the route to the KDOT representative.

“I gave them the figures and haven’t heard from them,” Tyson said. He added that although dust control could help the situation, “the road is destroyed now,” noting the effect of the sudden heavy traffic.

Later in the meeting, the commissioners approved a resolution drawn up by Crook to set the speed limit at 35 mph along Paulen Road south of K-268 to 245th Street, and on 245th Street to Ratner Road, and from there to K-268. Although the resolution was effective immediately, the speed limit will be enforceable once the signs are installed. Kuykendall volunteered the county’s sign-making capabilities to create 10 signs for the roads. The commissioners also agreed that Tyson should follow up on the state’s offer to provide dust control.

In other traffic discussion, the commissioners heard from Roger Davis, a resident along 189th Street east of U.S. 75. Davis reported that truck traffic along 189th Street had increased by 60 to 70 trucks a day since the commission approved a special use permit for Bettis Asphalt to operate an asphalt plant at the Plummer Creek Quarry. Davis said he didn’t believe Bettis representatives had said traffic would increase that much, but the increased truck traffic is due to products being delivered to the quarry to make asphalt.

“I don’t remember anything from them that they were going to bring in thousands and thousands of pounds of extra materials,” Davis said.

The commissioners took no action on Davis’ comments but noted the asphalt plant had not been set up at the site yet.

In other discussion of 189th Street, the commissioners agreed to place signs along that road noting that state law prohibits truck from using unmuffled engine brakes, as opposed to prohibition of the use of “Jake brakes”.  Crook had advised that he had found information that indicated Jake brake prohibition cannot be enforced, but prohibition of unmuffled engine brakes can be enforced. It was noted that Jake brakes that are properly muffled are not as noisy. The commissioners agreed to install four signs along 189th Street, saying that Bettis Asphalt had agreed to pay for the signs.

During Monday’s meeting, the commissioners also approved next year’s budget after holding a public hearing. The new budget will raise the county’s mill levy by 2.5 mills, which Kuykendall described during a department head meeting as “trying to hold the line.” He said the new budget did not provide cost of living raises for county employees.

Also on the commissioners’ agenda Monday was a “public concern” presented by Steve Sockness, who lives in rural Lyndon on Ratner Road. Sockness reported that one of his neighbors regularly conducts outdoor activities while wearing no clothes. During the discussion, it was noted that a deputy had previously been dispatched to discuss the issue with the neighbor, but that it was not against the law for the man to be nude while on his own property, as long as no lewd behavior is exhibited. Sockness expressed his concern that school buses use the road and children could see the man. The commissioners agreed they could not intervene in the situation.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas