Thousands of Midlanders with children have made the trek to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch.
More than 200,000 people visit each year, ranking the Gretna-area site as Nebraska’s third most popular tourist attraction that’s not a park or lake, behind the Henry Doorly Zoo and the Omaha Children’s Museum, state tourism officials say.
To get there and back, many urban visitors make unfamiliar driving decisions that are common in rural areas, especially the turns onto and off of 180th Street and Highway 370.
The intersection has improved since the highway was widened to four lanes, but it continues to baffle some drivers. Even with mostly seasonal traffic, it has been the site of more than a dozen crashes since January 2008, including an Oct. 11 crash that killed a 15-year-old Omaha boy.
The state may be correct when it says the intersection doesn’t meet traditional traffic count requirements for adding a highway stoplight. That was certainly going to be the case when the state measures traffic in July.
But what about the busiest 42 days for Nebraska’s largest seasonal, non-park attraction? What about peak times, when Vala’s owners say the patch can draw 16,000 visitors in a day?
The state has some experience adding traffic lights at seasonally busy intersections along Highway 370, even if the area around Werner Park includes other housing and business developments.
An intersection drawing this much traffic deserves similar consideration.
And in the meantime, get those message board warning signs back out on the road while Vala’s is open.