Proposal to reduce speed to 25 along heart of Mission’s Johnson Drive headed back to city council

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By Jerry LaMartina

A recently rejected proposal that would have reduced the speed limit from 30 miles an hour to 25 on Johnson Drive between Roe and Lamar Avenues in Mission will go back to the Mission City Council for consideration on Dec. 21.

At the council’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting Wednesday night, City Administrator Laura Smith recapped part of the council’s Nov. 16 meeting, at which it rejected a proposed ordinance amendment that sought to reduce the speed limit on that stretch of Johnson Drive and in other areas of the city.

Three council members were absent at the Nov. 16 meeting. Four members voted for the measure, and Ward 2 Councilwoman Arcie Rothrock voted against it. The measure was rejected because votes of five council members are required to pass an ordinance.

Mission Police Department Captain Dan Madden said at the Wednesday night meeting he thought reducing the speed limit was “a good step to see what we can do to reduce the perception or the real fear and danger of what’s happening along Johnson Drive.” Some of the meeting’s other attendees said drivers routinely exceeded the speed limit on Johnson Drive by as much as 15 miles an hour.

Ward 2 Councilman Nick Schlossmacher said he’d talked with co-workers about the problem “and everyone right away is concerned that we’re doing this (as) a ticket-revenue thing.”

“I know it has nothing to do with that,” he said. “I think we all know that the intent is nothing new, that it’s to promote safety along that main stretch. But what can we do to make sure we’re getting that message out to people that this is really just a safety thing? The worst thing that could happen, that would scare potential business away from that corridor, would be a fatal accident along Johnson Drive. None of us wants to see that happen.”

One attendee said that if “somebody’s going 45 miles an hour, I want them to get a ticket.”

Smith said that statistics the city compiles show that “we’re not writing tickets for 2 miles, 5 miles, 7 miles over the speed limit.”

Ward 1 Councilman Pat Quinn suggested adding “safety first” and “watch for pedestrians” signs along Johnson Drive. Other attendees suggested signs notifying motorists that the speed limit would soon be reduced. Madden said that digital sign boards, which display a passing vehicle’s speed, also were effective. Smith said additional permanent speed limit signs also were being considered.

At Wednesday night’s Community Development Committee meeting, which preceded the Finance and Administration meeting, the group also decided to delay until January discussing a proposal that Ward 4 Councilwoman Suzie Gibbs had made at the Nov. 16 council meeting to possibly reinstall a stoplight at Johnson Drive and Woodson. Gibbs was absent from Wednesday night’s meeting. A traffic signal would cost about $200,000.

Regarding Mission’s traffic generally, Public Works Director John Belger said at Wednesday’s Community Development meeting that he’d asked Olsson Associates, which had conducted a traffic study for the city, “to look not at the a.m. and p.m. rush but lunchtime and the p.m. rush, because those two peak times are when we really see the issue.”

“The other thing I’d like to do is make sure we have updated traffic counts for that section in order to get Broadmoor designated as a CARS (County Assistance Road System program) route,” Belger said. “That way, we can leverage CARS funds.”

The Johnson County Board of Commissioners created the CARS program in 1983 to help build and maintain major corridors. Through the program, the county pays half of construction and construction inspection costs, and cities pay for design, right-of-way and utility-relocation costs.