Highway Changes Cause Confusion, Frustration

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two highways in Reno and Kingman Counties now have different designations and what a Reno County Sheriff's Captain calls a breakdown in communication about those changes has emergency responders frustrated.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has re-designated K-14 north of U.S. 54 near Kingman as K-11. The Transportation Department has re-routed K-14 along the K-17 corridor. Both moves, the department said, were in the interest of public safety.

Capt. Wayne Baughman of the Reno County Sheriff's Office worries confusion over the new designations could, in its most extreme form, prove deadly.

A Wednesday night car crash in Reno County underscored Baughman's concern. Emergency crews were sent to an injury rollover crash reported about 11 p.m. at K-17 and Pretty Prairie Road. The call was dispatched as K-14 and Pretty Prairie Road.

While emergency crews went to the correct location, not everybody dispatched to the scene ended up in the right place.

"When the wrecker service was called for that vehicle, they were given the K-14 and Pretty Prairie Road location," Baughman said. "Of course, they went to what is now K-11 and Pretty Prairie Road."

He said KDOT instructed Reno and Kingman Counties to begin using new highway numbers on January 17th for what everybody had known as K-14 and K-17. For accident reporting and dispatching purposes, those changes were retroactive to July 30, 2012.

Baughman said the state should have asked for more input from the counties before making the changes.

"To think about all the worst-case scenarios that could come up with this," said Baughman, explaining why he feels KDOT moved too quickly.

One of those worst-case scenarios, Baughman said, is that someone may call 911 to report an emergency along what they've always known to be K-14 when that emergency is actually along what is currently designated as K-11. That's 14 miles west of the new K-14.

"If they're sent 14 miles in an ambulance to the wrong location, it takes a while to turn them around and get them back," Baughman said.

Most law enforcement and emergency workers in Reno County know the old numbering system and will know to double check each call, he said. However, new people are constantly joining those departments.

"At some point, I'm afraid that someone new that could come on, who has learned the new, is not going to put two and two together," Baughman said.

Adding to his frustration: The signs on both highways still need to be changed. Baughman has been told that could take another five weeks.

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