Some Baraboo residents want a four-way stop installed at a downtown intersection, but city officials say it doesn’t see enough traffic — or enough accidents — to justify the change.
Downtown barber Jimmy Kimball posted on social media a call for a four-way stop at Fifth and Oak streets last week and was surprised how many comments of support he received. The intersection currently has stop signs for northbound and southbound traffic on Oak, but none on Fifth.
“Everyone seems to have a bad story about that intersection,” Kimball said. “I’ve been almost hit three times in the year I’ve owned the building.”
The intersection lies just down Fifth from his barbershop and between two popular destinations, Nanny Park and Coffee Bean Connection.
Shannon Hill said a four-way stop could protect kids who may dart from the park to the street, including her son, Max. She also supports installing a fence to enclose the park. “Kids are running out all the time,” she said. “People fly through there.”
“It is a daily thing seeing kids run out in the road,” Kimball said.
Baraboo City Engineer Tom Pinion said he and Police Chief Mark Schauf have found the intersection doesn’t meet federal guidelines for a four-way stop, which include high traffic volume and crash rates.
“The chief and I have looked at this intersection a couple of times in the last several years, and at this point, it does not meet any of the warrants for a four-way stop,” he said.
Baraboo Police Department Capt. Rob Sinden said only five accidents have been reported at the intersection in the past four years, revealing no significant difference from other similar intersections.
Concerned citizens said the intersection often is the site of near misses. Some traffic comes through at speeds higher than the posted limit of 25 mph. Other drivers, assuming the intersection comes to a four-way stop, slow down unexpectedly, causing potential rear-end collisions.
“That’s fine if the city wants to twiddle their thumbs, but something is going to happen,” Hill said. “It’s a recipe for a disaster.”
She reports seeing a bicyclist struck at the intersection. Her friend Stephanie Shanks was involved in a car accident there, struck by a driver on Oak who didn’t stop.
Another local driver, Anna Krause, said she was involved in a crash there in 2015. “That intersection needs a four-way or at the very least a blinking stop sign for the Oak Street traffic,” Krause said. “It’s a bad corner.”
Upon reading Kimball’s post, Hill and others offered to help raise funds, or sign and circulate a petition to create a four-way stop. Kimball called City Hall but was told the intersection doesn’t see enough traffic to warrant a four-way stop.
“What would it hurt?” he asked. “It might take me an extra 5 seconds to get to work, but I’m OK with that.
“To me it seems like a ‘better safe than sorry’ scenario.”
Baraboo Common Council member Phil Wedekind, who is chairman of the city’s Public Safety Committee, said he hasn’t been contacted about the intersection. “I don’t know if they’ve had a lot of accidents there,” he said. “Most of the time we listen to the police department and the city engineer.”