Dangerous highway: ‘There’s no room for any error’


“You got a lot of kids sitting there in the back, and you’re the one that’s got to keep them safe,” Hodgeman County USD 227 bus driver Nolan Salmans said.

To Nolan Salmans and Pam Ruff, safety is their number one priority when it comes to bussing their kids to and from school everyday between Burdette and Jetmore.

But they both said the kids’ safety are at risk every time they travel on Highway 156.

“When I drive the bus, I feel like it just fits the lane,” Ruff said. “There’s no extra room on the side for error.”

“The narrowness of the it,” he said. “You ain’t got nowhere to go if you got somebody coming at ya.”

Salmans said he ran into this situation a couple years ago when a semi side swept his school bus and there was no shoulder to pull over.

“We clipped mirrors, which could have been very bad,” Salmans said. “I had 32 kids on there that morning. It was scary.”

A scary thing that many Hodgeman residents fear of happening again.

“It’s mind boggling how scary it is as a parent because our entire future is on the bus,” Julie Housman said. “There is heavy semi traffic daily and with the wind it’s dangerous.”

According USD 227, about 43 percent of the students ride the bus on the highway.

But farmer Ronnie Ruff said the highway isn’t only dangerous to students, but farmers as well.

“My son, Brad, that does all of our crops and irrigation has been run off the road three times with his spray rig,” he said. “Additionally, bikers that travel through here are at serious danger.”

Hodgeman County Sheriff Jared Walker said there’s been 34 non fatal accidents in the county this year on 156, and three fatal accidents within the past three years.

He said almost every week, he responds to at least three accidents on the highway.

“The road needs to be widen,” Walker said. “We’ve had several accidents after the fact, they’ve stated if the road would have been wider, the accident could have been prevented.”

“You just hope they stay on the other side of the dang line,” Salmans said.

Hodgeman community members and officials will be meeting October 11 at Garden City High School, 2720 Buffalo Way, to discuss widening Highway 156.

The meeting will be from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

If you’re interested, you can provide written or oral input/testimony regarding transportation in Kansas.

However you must contact the Kansas Legislative Research Department (KLRD) before 3 p.m. on October 2 to asked to be placed on the agenda.

Any written testimony for this meeting must be provided in PDF file format and emailed to KLRD by 3 p.m. on October 8.

For more information, contact KLRD at 785-296-3181.  

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