Officials: More traffic control needed

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Pawhuska’s mayor and police chief said last week they would like additional traffic control measures on Main Street, downtown in the vicinity of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, but their understanding was that the city doesn’t qualify for anything additional.

Main Street in Pawhuska is also State Highway 60, so the state of Oklahoma regulates the sort of traffic control devices and measures the city uses.

“I wish we had a stoplight there, but I understand the state said we don’t need one,” Police Chief Scott Laird said in an interview. Some kind of additional traffic control “would make it so much easier,” he said.

Mayor Roger Taylor, in a separate interview, said much the same thing.

“I would love for us to have something there in town,” Taylor said. Like Laird, Taylor said he understood the city didn’t meet state requirements for more traffic control on State Highway 60.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation was initially confused, however, when the Pawhuska Journal-Capital started asking for a copy of any traffic count or traffic study document that would explain what was studied and why additional traffic control in downtown Pawhuska would not be approved.

Pawhuska City Clerk Barbara Smith said in an email to the Journal-Capital Friday that ODOT contacted her and said the state agency could find no evidence in its records of any request from the city of Pawhuska for any such study.

In a conversation Monday, ODOT spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell, in Tulsa, confirmed there was no record of ODOT receiving a study request, but Mitchell also said that numerous factors are considered when it comes to the placement of traffic control devices, not just study numbers.

The upshot of ODOT’s response is that the department says it hasn’t disapproved anything at this point.

Smith indicated in an email that ODOT appeared to think the city might have done some unofficial counting. She reminded the Journal-Capital that Pawhuska is in the early stages of a streetscape grant. The architect working with the city on that grant, R.L. Shears, said something to city councilors during a meeting about a “study” that had been done that showed Pawhuska did not have enough pedestrian traffic to merit a stop light, the city clerk wrote.

While soliciting opinions about downtown traffic control, the Journal-Capital also talked with Randi Chesbro, of Sister’s Attic, who is active in the Pawhuska Merchants Association and a member of the Osage County Tourism Board. Chesbro said there are times of the year when more traffic control downtown, in the Main Street/Kihekah Avenue area, would be a good idea.

“There are days in the summertime when that would be very beneficial,” Chesbro said. She also reacted to the notion that some kind of study result might have shown that nothing additional is needed.

“They should come and drive around in Pawhuska in the middle of July,” she said.

While seeking opinion about downtown traffic, the Journal-Capital also talked with interviewees about truck traffic in town, and whether the city should make an effort to redirect that traffic to the designated truck route situated to the south of downtown.

Laird’s concern about any effort to redirect truck traffic was the need for resources. He commented that more signage would likely be needed, and it could consume a lot of staff time.

“Who is going to stand there 24 hours a day and make that happen?” Laird said. “It would be a nightmare for a while.”

Laird said, in fairness to truckers, most of the truck drivers bringing their rigs through downtown Pawhuska drive slowly and are cordial. He also pointed out that a frequent problem is drivers of smaller vehicles just not being considerate enough to stop for pedestrians.

Taylor said the truck route is a good road and is well-maintained, but it has no shoulders for anyone to use in case of an emergency.

“So if you have trouble, there’ s no way to get off of it,” he said. Taylor also pointed out that anyone attempting to reach the truck route by driving a heavy rig from the intersection of Main Street and Lynn Avenue across the bridge just to the south of that intersection might be placing themselves in jeopardy because of the condition of the bridge.

Chesbro indicated it might not be so bad to try and curtail some of the truck traffic downtown. She noted seeing apparently frustrated truckers in heavy downtown traffic, and she explained that trying to get truckers to slow down and stop on Main Street (State Highway 60) is not a new problem.

“I almost got run over out there,” she said. Chesbro also commented on the need for local residents in smaller vehicles to slow down and let pedestrians cross.

“I still witness people not stopping for people in the crosswalk,” she said.