After research and discussion with residents, the Missouri Department of Transportation is moving forward with a proposed J-turn in La Monte.
The Missouri Department of Transportation announced Friday they plan to move forward with the proposed J-turn at U.S. Route 50 and state Route 127 in La Monte. The project is planned to begin in spring or summer 2022 and is estimated to take 90 to 120 days to complete.
According to MoDOT, J-turns are alternatives to traditional intersections on four-lane highways. Drivers “turn right in the same direction of traffic, merge into the left lane, and then make a U-turn in the direction they intend to travel.”
MoDOT hosted a public meeting June 27 to discuss the proposed intersection and a “variety of comments” were received from the 55 people in attendance. Other individuals called, emailed, or spoke to MoDOT staff in person outside of the meeting.
“They gave us a lot of comments and feedback,” said MoDOT Area Engineer Rich Shipley. “It ranged anywhere from people that were grateful to see that we were doing something at the intersection to people not real thrilled about a turn but they knew something needed to be done, to, ‘just leave it alone it’s fine the way it is we don’t want a J-turn.’”
Shipley said most concerned residents agreed the intersection needs to be improved. Based on residents’ comments, Shipley said MoDOT will keep Route 50 and Pleasant Green Road open but will close that intersection if the J-turn creates shifting traffic patterns that cause concern.
“We originally were looking at closing down the crossover at Pleasant Green Road which some of the people had concerns about farm equipment or how the buses get to the elementary school and whatnot in the south side,” he said.
“We said well, we’re willing to leave that one open and go ahead with the J-turn. We will be kind of cautious with it…We’re going to watch that other intersection and kind of monitor it.”
The department ultimately decided to proceed with the J-turn due to the need to reduce the amount of right-angle or T-bone accidents happening at the intersection. Studies have found J-turns to be the safest option, according to Shipley.
A recent study done by the University of Missouri compared accidents at intersections before and after J-turns were installed. The study found right-angle crashes were reduced by 88%, fatality accidents reduced by 88%, serious or disabling injury accidents reduced by 77%, and total crashes reduced by 25%.
Shipley also spoke about two J-turns at U.S. Route 58 and U.S. Route 50 and the other at U.S. Route 131 and U.S. 50. The J-turns have been successful, according to Shipley. Before the Route 131 J-turn, the intersection had 31 crashes from 2010-14. After a J-turn was installed, there have been six crashes and none had fatal or disabling injuries. The La Monte intersection has experienced 22 crashes from 2013-18.
“We’ve had pretty good results, I mean it’s kind of night and day between the crash patterns we were seeing and all that in the past,” he said.
Shipley said the department looked into other options for the La Monte intersection including a stoplight or an interchange and neither were good options. Stoplights do not eliminate right-angle crashes and often cause an increase in rear-end crashes.
“In fact, the right-angle crashes can be much more severe at a signalized intersection because if somebody blows through a red light and somebody wasn't expecting it’s usually full impact,” Shipley explained.
With interchanges, the footprint of the project is too big for the area and Shipley said it would “wipe out most of what you see of La Monte.”
For more information, visit www.modot.mo.gov/kansascity.