LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. – Eighteen months after one college student was killed and one high school student was seriously injured in separate crashes at intersections on the same highway, officials are set to begin on safety improvements.
The crashes happened a day apart in December 2019 at the 16th Street and Scherer Road intersections on 291 Highway. Each occurred as a driver tried to enter the highway at the intersection where there’s only a stop sign.
Brian Dieckman, a 23-year-old University of Missouri-Kansas City senior, was killed. Alijah Smith, a 17-year-old Lee’s Summit West senior, was hospitalized for 35 days.
“I just remember driving a long stretch of road and then like black,” Smith said.
Smith had just taken the ACT test and was trying to get on 291 Highway heading north at Scherer Road. He was struck at highway speeds squarely on his driver side door.
He spent two weeks in a medically induced coma. He said he broke more than 30 bones, including a broken collarbone, hip and multiple facial and skull fractures.
“As any parent can imagine, to see your child in that moment, in a split second everything changed for him,” Tracye Smith, his mother, said.
FOX4 investigated and found there had already been 17 crashes at the two intersections that year. Smith’s family immediately called for change.
“The city needs to stop and do something they need to stop and evaluate that intersection,” Alijah’s aunt Michelle Smith said after the crashes.
The Missouri Department of Transportation said at the time it already determined a stoplight was needed at Scherer Road, but the agency didn’t have it in the budget until 2022.
But now the $1.3 million project has been moved up to start next week.
“Once we were having the crash problem, we decided it was a need that needed to be elevated. And we got it programmed, and we were going to deliver it by the end of the year,” said Ericka Ross, with MoDOT.
They’ll install turn lanes and a traffic light at Scherer, turn and deceleration lanes on 291 Highway and they’ll block traffic from crossing the highway at 16th Street, all in efforts to improve safety.
“I’m glad they are taking the steps necessary to make sure everyone else is safe and this never happens again because that’s I really care about, that nobody else goes through what I went through,” Smith said.
Construction at the two intersections is going to be done in four phases. MoDOT plans to have the entire project done in October.