An intersection that has caused concern for pedestrians, particularly students attending Deerfield Primary School, may now be safer after it was designated a school zone by the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT).
U.S. Highway 75 north at Deerfield Boulevard will change to a school zone one hour before and after school. The speed limit will be reduced to 35 mph during these two hours. A new yellow flashing light will be installed in both directions. A speed sign to alert drivers of their speed will also be installed.
The NDOT has also agreed to allow the City of Blair to move the existing speed sign further north on the highway as the 45 mph posted speed limit will be set at the city's corporate limits, north of 25th Street intersection, according to Blair Public Works Director Al Schoemaker.
The school zone on Highway 75 south, which is 13th Street, will be modified to mirror the Highway 75 north school zone.
Concern about safety at the crossing was brought to the Blair Community Schools Board of Education member Bob Schoby in September 2018. Schoby serves as a crossing guard at the intersection and has observed red-light runners, speeders and distracted drivers.
“There are trucks flying through that intersection that are pushing 60 easy,” he told board members. “I've been running for 40 years, I'm a pretty good judge of pedestrian versus truck speed.”
Blair resident Chris Casey also brought concerns before the Blair City Council in August.
This wasn't the first time the issue of the U.S. 75 crossing has concerned residents, the city or the school district.
In 2010, the Blair City Council sent a request to the Nebraska Department of Transportation asking that flashing lights be installed on both sides of the intersection of U.S. 75 and Deerfield Boulevard to slow traffic during busy school hours.
However, in September 2011, the state denied the request.
The changes to the intersection were approved in a resolution Tuesday by the Blair City Council to adopt the speed limit changes made by the NDOT within Blair city limits.
Other changes included:
• State Highway 91, 45 mph speed limit will be extended to the western city limits at 32nd Street
• U.S. Highway 30 just east of Fish Creek to the Iowa state line will increase to 55 mph
• State Highway 133 the speed limit will be formally set at 50 mph from just south of the roundabout to the city corporate limits.
Council members Jon Stewart and Chris Jensen expressed concern over the change to U.S. Highway 30, specifically due to the intersection at Industrial Park Drive.
“The trucks are blowing through stop signs, pulling out in front of cars. There is nothing we can do with the DOT until someone gets hit in a tragic accident out there,” Jensen said. “I'm not in favor of that 55, but it's the DOT.”
That issue should be resolved soon, Schoemaker said. The NDOT is planning to install a traffic signal at the intersection in 2021.
“The DOT is finally recognizing that's a traffic issue and have authorized putting traffic signals in,” he said.