The Watchdog

A solution to backups at I-35 and Rainbow Boulevard

The problem

Billy Lonergan of Kansas City raises an issue the Watchdog has investigated before — traffic backups on northbound Interstate 35 from the ramp to Seventh Street/Rainbow Boulevard.

The problem is that drivers turning right stop at the bottom of the ramp, look left, wait for all traffic to clear and then scoot into the far left lane so they can turn onto Southwest Boulevard toward downtown Kansas City.

“There is an entire (right) lane for traffic to use,” Lonergan said. “There is no reason for traffic to stop.”

He suggests a sign that tells people to keep moving and merge later.

The answer

Back in 2010, another Watchdog fan suggested installing a string of about five posts on the left edge of the designated right-turn lane, forcing drivers to use the pavement provided.

His wasn’t the only complaint, so the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., and the Kansas Department of Transportation went to work to analyze the problem.

They nixed the posts in favor of a 150-foot solid painted stripe to guide motorists from the ramp into the right lane. Also part of the solution are two yellow signs designed to clarify the situation.

One reason for avoiding the posts was the short distance to Southwest Boulevard.

“There is concern that extending any barrier too far to the southeast will reduce the available distance for traffic to merge across the three lanes to make a left turn. … Plus we didn’t think it would be practical to try and keep up with the replacement and maintenance of them when hit by motorists,” said Edwin Birch, a spokesman for the Unified Government.

The Watchdog says he is often stopped at the bottom of that very same ramp, mainly to avoid merging later when a blind spot could put him in the insurance company’s doghouse. Again.