Councilors say they’re open to idea of reducing Mission to 3 lanes near St. Ann, SM East

Students from St. Ann Catholic School and SM East walk directly next to car traffic along Mission Road from 71st Street to 75th Street.
Students from St. Ann Catholic School and SM East walk directly next to car traffic along Mission Road from 71st Street to 75th Street.

In 2011, the city of Mission completed a reconfiguration of Nall Avenue from Martway to 67th Street, reducing the street from four lanes to three and expanding a sidewalk to improve walkability.

The motivations for the project were several: First, a traffic study showed that a three-lane configuration was actually the best fit for the stretch. The three-lane setup prevented the stacking of cars behind vehicles making a left turn, helping to reduce rear-end accidents. And the expansion of the sidewalk helping improve pedestrian safety and contributed to a more residential feel in the area dense with houses.

Mission Public Works Director John Belger categorized the project as a clear success. The year before the improvements were made, there were 20 reported accidents at the intersection of Nall Avenue and Shawnee Mission Parkway. The year following that reconfiguration, that number had been cut in half.

“The overall number of accidents have been reduced significantly,” he said.

Following a close-call accident February in which a car skidded across a sidewalk just as parents were walking to pick up students emerging from school, a group of Prairie Village residents are urging the city to make a similar project a priority along Mission Road in 2016 — and they appear to have the attention of the two city councilors in whose ward the stretch of road lies.

Both Ward 3 Councilors Eric Mikkelson and Andrew Wang said this week that they were open to considering a reduction of Mission from 71st Street to 75th Street from four lanes to three. Mikkelson said the presence of St. Ann Catholic School and SM East nearby made pedestrian safety along the road a priority.

“Those blocks are a gauntlet for pedestrians and bicyclists,” he said. “Especially given the immediate proximity of two schools, a senior living facility, neighborhoods, and a park, that stretch should offer our residents a relatively safe, comfortable corridor for walking, running, biking and driving.”

Wang said that he wanted to be responsive to the concerns of neighbors and consider their suggestion, but that he hoped to see more data before getting behind any specific solution.

“I think we need to see what the circumstances are first,” he said. “When we can describe the problem, we can design the solution. For me, a public safety project to address a significant risk to Prairie Villagers is our highest responsibility and should take the highest priority.” But, he added, “When concerns arise and a solution is suggested, they deserve a serious examination.”

Prairie Village Police did not immediately have statistics available about the number of accidents and citations along Mission from 71st Street to 75th Street, though Sgt. James Carney, who oversees traffic enforcement operations, noted that “There are also a silly number of crashes at 71st and Mission…that are rear-end crashes because drivers aren’t paying attention and hit the car in front of them at the red light.”

Neighbors are working to organize a show of support for the idea before Monday’s Prairie Village City Council Work Session, during which the council will discuss budget priorities for 2016. There will not be public comment during that meeting. Residents interested in signing a petition showing support for the idea should contact Katie Siengsukon via email here.