Even early Saturday morning, there were more cars waiting to turn from Clark Lane onto U.S. 63 than could turn left before the signal changed.
Brian Woodburn, a manager at Steak ’N Shake at the intersection, said flagrant traffic violations cause most of the problems he witnesses from inside the restaurant.
“People try and pass on the left or they try to make the light and get stuck in the intersection,” he said. “One day, I counted six people getting pulled over.”
The Columbia Police Department listed the most accident-prone intersections in the city for 2004 on Friday, and Clark Lane at the U.S. 63 connector was at the top of the list with 73 crashes.
“It’s not so much the accidents as the traffic is backed up at all times of the day,” said Tara Kaegel, a part-time clerk at the Quik Trip on Clark Lane. “It’s a terrible intersection.”
Other intersections on the list include Bernadette Drive and Stadium Boulevard, and Range Line Street at Vandiver Drive, where the number of crashes increased almost 100 percent from 2003 to 2004.
“That’s what I hear all day, screeching tires and horns,” said Shanae Canton, a clerk and assistant manager at the Break Time on Range Line Road.
From inside the store, Canton observes many of the problems that make this intersection so troublesome.
“Sometimes people run that light, because you have to wait through three lights before you can get through,” Canton said. People cut through the gas station parking lot trying to get around the back up, she said, as a four-door sedan cut through the lot to get to Vandiver Drive.
“There is nothing good about this intersection,” Canton said.
Officer Lyn Woolford of the Columbia Police Department compiled the latest statistics. “Unfortunately, most, if not all, of the accidents are due to driver error,” he said.
Construction at U.S. 63 and Interstate 70, just south of the problematic intersection at Clark Lane, is ongoing in an attempt to alleviate some congestion.
“Some of the crashes are due to the construction,” Woolford said. “But in the end, when it’s done, it will be better.”
The Missouri Department of Transportation Web site details 15 improvements that are being made to the area costing $10.4 million.
The project, which was awarded to Emery Sapp & Sons, is scheduled to be completed by summer.
The sheer volume of traffic is part of the reason for the number of accidents at intersections such as Bernadette Drive and Stadium Boulevard, where 72 crashes were reported in 2004.
Tony Jaco is a manager at Ruby Tuesday on Bernadette. He sees traffic incidents increase whenever more cars come through the area for a special event.
“What’s kind of sad is that we have the state basketball tournament here this weekend and I said last week ‘I can guarantee you we will see five to six accidents in this intersection,’” Jaco said. “And we saw seven since last weekend.”
There is a difference between high-hazard areas and high-incident areas, Woolford said.
High-hazard areas represent problems that may require changes to the road design, he said.
“In the next few weeks the police department will do a more in-depth analysis to identify high-hazard locations of those high-incident locations,” Woolford said. “After those are identified, we will try to develop an enforcement response to reduce the numbers of crashes.”
Traffic violations are preventable, Woolford said. If it appears that drivers run red lights often at a particular intersection, a potential solution is more patrols.
“Drivers need to be aware in the high-incident areas,” he said. “We’d like people to not talk on the phone and use their signals. Just focus on driving.”