Citizens express concerns about Noland’s ‘road diet’ – The Examiner

by Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

City councilors hear votes from the electorate on the proposed infrastructure project on the main artery of independence

While Noland Road’s plans for a “diet of the road” will still be two years away from building in Independence, elected officials say they’ve received a fair amount of citizen skepticism about the idea, and they certainly have some questions themselves.

The US Department of Transportation recently awarded the city a $10.16 million grant to Rebuild American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) from the Infrastructure Act passed by Congress earlier this year, which will help renovate 1.7 miles of Noland, from US 24 south to 23rd Street. Initial plans call for reducing this extension to two lanes—with a turn lane in the middle—and adding bike lanes. Piers will be added or replaced on both sides to make it ADA compliant.

The total cost of the project is more than $12 million, and the city will cover the balance with street sales tax money. Traffic light and street lighting improvements are also part of the project, and the project must be approved by the city council before in-depth planning can take place.

Council members Jared Ferris, Dan Hobart, John Perkins and Mike Steinmeier said they have heard varying levels of concern from citizens about the diet plan down the road since the grant was announced.

“There aren’t many projects that get that much attention before we take them to design,” Municipal Services Manager Lisa Reynolds told the council Monday before giving an overview of the project.

Reynolds herself admitted that the first she heard about them were her parents, wondering, “How can you do such a thing.”

Steinmeier said some citizens remembered road diversion projects in the past that they didn’t think went well.

“I hear a lot of disapproval,” he said, “and I think we’d have to if we had a public hearing on this at some point.” “I had someone I went to kindergarten with in Ott, who tracked me down and told me he was against this.”

Reynolds said the city has public hearings for all of these road projects, and while previous traffic studies have shown Noland Road can handle the traffic expected in this stretch with just two lanes, the city will conduct an updated study to make sure.

“With full street projects, it’s essential to make sure we’re doing them in the right areas,” she said. “The idea is not to support traffic; it is to provide transportation rights to all users, not just vehicle users.”

“Conceptually, I like the idea of ​​bike lanes,” said Fears. “I wish we saw more motorcyclists there. I have some concerns about getting off four lanes.”

Perkins noted that the U.S. Route 24-Noland junction, although part of another planned road improvement project, is located near William Chrisman High School.

“You’re going to a school district, which has a lot of activities, that can produce a lot of traffic along those areas,” he said, noting that city employees could “maybe have community engagements sooner than that” to educate them about the proposed changes. .

In response to a question from council member Bryce Stewart, Reynolds said the Diet of Roads project would in theory increase transit traffic because transit stations would be more accessible for both buses and pedestrians.

Extensions of Armor Road in North Kansas City, Paseo Boulevard and Gillham Road in Kansas City, Woods Chapel Road in Lee’s Summit, Raytown Road in Raytown, and College Boulevard in Overland Park, Kansas, have been included as modern examples of metro area diets. on the roads.

“The old way of design was simply to design around vehicular traffic,” Reynolds said. “It’s not the way anymore. Public transport is huge, pedestrians and bike users are definitely there and need facilities.”

Reynolds listed some additional reasons why city employees pursued the scholarship:

• The council adopted the Full Streets Policy in 2011, and extensions of Truman Road, Chrysler, Jackson Drive, Little Blue Parkway, and soon US 40 and US 24 are all examples in the city of harmonizing roads to accommodate non-traffic traffic. The city wouldn’t be able to think of a project close to this size on its own, as it would be more than an entire year of street sales tax money.

“In the absence of grant dollars, there is no way we can fund them,” she said.

“There is no ADA-compliant infrastructure on this part of Noland, and for the pavement that is already there, much of it is in poor condition,” Reynolds said. With continued poverty and families without cars who know they are near Noland, more pedestrian facilities are helping, she said.

• This stretch of Noland has a higher rate of pedestrian vehicle accidents than the rest of Noland and the city as a whole. Slowing traffic and allocating infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists should lower these numbers, based on previous case studies.

“These things are perfectly done by peer cities in the region, and across the country,” Reynolds said, citing a municipal services conference she attended recently. “Across the board, they’ve done that and they continue to do so, seeing massive downtime reductions from every project they’ve taken on.”

City engineer Jackie White said the grant gives an anticipation of dedicated bike lanes, rather than specifying a single existing lane for cars. More planning will identify questions about detours and intersections, and state and federal transportation departments will have to be part of the plans as they save the most money, she said.

White added that the phrase “road diet” tends to give an unfortunate connotation.

“Nobody likes a diet in any way, and that automatically removes the perception that they will not be welcome,” she said. “I don’t think the perception should be a loss, it has to be that we offer choices, and it’s not just motorists using the lanes anymore, cyclists and pedestrians should have a way from getting from point A to point B.”

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