The intersection of Missouri Highways 43 and 96 west of Oronogo and north of the Joplin Airport doesn’t look like a particularly dangerous intersection.
The line of sight for drivers stopping at the stop signs on Missouri 96 to look north and south for oncoming traffic is pretty good.
The Missouri Department of Transportation has added numerous safety features to remind drivers of the intersection, including rumble strips on Missouri 96 to alert drivers of the stop signs larger, more reflective signs and reflectors on the posts supporting the signs; and interactive lights on opposite corners that only blink if traffic is coming from the north or south.
But still the accidents happen, most involving traffic on Missouri 96 crossing in front of the north and southbound traffic on Missouri 43 and being struck.
In fact, the only two fatal accidents happened at the intersection within weeks of each other in October 2009 and January 2011, after MoDOT installed the interactive lights.
Until then, the intersection had been the scene of several accidents involving serious injury over the years.
“We don’t know what happens at that intersection, it’s like drivers fall asleep up there,” said Dan Salisbury, assistant district engineer for the Southwest District of MoDOT. “Over the years we’ve tried every safety improvement we could think of and no matter what we did we’d still get serious accidents there.”
That’s why, starting on Sept. 10, the intersection will be closed for up to 35 days so a contractor can install an $860,000 roundabout to slow motorists and allow a continuous flow of traffic.
Salisbury said officials hope the addition of a roundabout will change the look of the intersection and cause drivers to be more cautious as they drive.
The department made numerous changes to the intersection since it was changed from a four-way stop to a two-way stop in the 1980s.