The Prairie Village City Council on Monday got its first look at the plans in development for a more pedestrian-friendly Mission Road from 71st to 75th Street — including a stretch of trail that could eventually stretch from the Village Shops to Corinth Square and beyond.
Through the input of planners and members of the public, a subcommittee leading the design for the project put forth a recommendation to reduce the number of lanes on the road from four to three, and the use the extra space to build out an eight-foot trail on the west side of Mission. On the east side of the road, the city would work with property owners to try to secure easements to allow it to move the sidewalk further off the road and away from existing utility poles:
The path on the west side would run along a seven-foot patch of green space that designers hope to use for pedestrian enhancements including benches, seating walls, landscaping beds and other amenities. Planners put together a budget for the pedestrian amenities that would come in just under $150,000:
The design elements would closely mirror many of the improvements added at the Village Shops as part of the CID redevelopment, and would ostensibly serve as the “visual vocabulary” for future trail development down Mission Road toward Corinth Square in coming years.
Mayor Laura Wassmer and city staff currently envision using the city’s economic development fund — approximately $1.9 million reserved for city projects expected to have some positive impact on commerce in the city — for the amenities. That plan drew a rebuke from Councilor Andrew Wang, who said more council input was necessary before allocating funds from that account to the project. Spending $150,000 on non-essential aesthetic improvements as part of a $1 million road project seemed excessive, he argued, particularly when the city struggles every year to find money for recommended road resurfacing.
“I’m not entirely supportive of all the aesthetic improvements, and I cannot be supportive of using the economic development fund to pay for it,” said Wang, who represents the ward in which the stretch of road lies.
But Councilor Eric Mikkelson, who represents the same ward as Wang, countered that employing the economic development fund on improvements that would likely increase foot traffic — and business — to the city’s two primary shopping centers was an appropriate use of the money. Moreover, he said, it was a better use of the funds than letting them sit in a very-low interest account, as they have done for the past several years.
“I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible for the city to leave [the economic development funds] in a zero-interest bank account for infinity,” he said. “If we can convert a small part of it to a benefit for hundreds if not thousands of residents, we’re doing our job.”
The committee working on the project will present its plans to the public for input in the coming weeks before returning to the council for project approval.
Public Works Director Keith Bredehoeft said the city hoped to put the final project plan out for bid in February 2016 with construction starting in early summer.
The project was moved to the top of the city’s priority list this spring after a group of neighborhood residents lobbied the council, suggesting it posed a serious safety risk for pedestrians.