The Mission City Council on Wednesday changed course regarding its process for considering and approving possible traffic calming measures for the intersection of Johnson Drive and Woodson. Instead of waiting to get feedback from residents and business owners at a community meeting, the council passed a measure that will see a new traffic light installed at the intersection later this year.
At a committee meeting last week, the council had decided against forwarding consideration of the traffic signal to Wednesday’s agenda, instead directing city staff to organize a community meeting to get feedback on three possible traffic calming approaches: A traditional traffic light, a “road diet” reduction from four lanes to three, and a pedestrian activated HAWK light traffic signal.
But at the start of the council meeting Wednesday, Councilman Pat Quinn moved to add adoption of a plan to install a new traffic light at the intersection to the city’s agenda.
The council voted 4-4 on the measure when it came up later in the evening, with Mayor Steve Schowengerdt breaking the tie in favor of the plan. Councilmembers Tom Geraghty, Pat Quinn, Arcie Rothrock and Debbie Kring vote in favor of the traffic signal. Councilmembers Nick Schlossmacher, Kristin Inman, Suzie Gibbs and Ron Appletoft voted against it.
Schowengerdt, who announced earlier this month that he does not intend to seek a second term, has been a passionate advocate for the traffic signal, and said he wanted to ensure that the project was approved before he stepped away from city business. Schowengerdt has argued for years now that, whether engineers deemed the light necessary based on traffic levels, it provided the best way to protect pedestrians. Johnson Drive and Woodson sees heavy foot traffic not only from people walking between the business corridor and city the pool complex, but also from participants in The Mission Project.
Prior to the vote, several councilmembers expressed concern that taking up the issue without having the planned public forum sent a bad message about city process and transparency. Appletoft said the move to add the item to Wednesday’s agenda communicated that “our process of bringing items through our committee to council does not matter. It appears we are rushing this issue before it has been thoroughly vetted.”
Schlossmacher struck a similar tone.
“If anybody was paying attention last week, they thought, great, we’re going to have an upcoming time where we can come and give feedback,” said Schlossmacher. “That’s all gone out the window if we’re going to vote on this tonight.”
Gibbs said she felt Johnson Drive businesses deserved a chance to be heard before the council settled on a decision. Sandy Russell, the owner of Twisted Sisters on Johnson Drive, agreed.
“The people who were here [last week] listening thought that we were going to go out and have the rest of the businesses on Johnson Drive and in Mission be able to put in their input,” Russell said. “I know that there are a lot of people who are very headstrong on one way. But I think that is we don’t look at all of it, we are doing a disservice to the future walkability.”
A traffic signal had been present at Johnson Drive and Woodson for decades before the reconstruction of Johnson Drive a few years ago. To be eligible for approximately $2 million in federal funds, the project had to adhere to traffic engineers’ recommendations about traffic calming measures. Because a traffic study showed traffic levels at the intersection did not merit a signal, the city had to remove the light, or forfeit the federal construction dollars.
The installation of the new traffic signal was estimated by city staff at $307,000, though the project will go out for a competitive bid. Money for the new signal will come from the city’s general fund.