By Roxie Hammill
Construction is only two or three weeks away on a major new arterial for Lenexa. As contractors and the city get ready to build a new Ridgeview Road, they are now asking for public input on how the arterial should accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.
City staffers and contractors heard from residents Thursday evening about the final design for the Ridgeview. Digging will start in early April on the one-mile stretch of road connecting Kansas Highway 10 to Prairie Star Parkway, and the project is expected to be complete in the fall of 2019.
Because it is a design-build project, the grading can begin before all the details of the $20.9 million project are finalized.
The design-build team offered three concepts for the bike and pedestrian aspects of the road at the meeting. One option had a wider street to allow for bike lanes and a multi-use sidewalk trail to the side. Another had a twelve-foot trail with two-way bike traffic down one side of the road and a sidewalk on the other. That option had no bike lane, but did include painted “share the road” signs on the street. Yet another – considered the “traditional” approach that Lenexa has used in the past – put pedestrians and cyclists on a multi-use trail and did not include bike lanes.
Bicycle infrastructure has been an issue with some cyclists, who say Lenexa lags behind other cities in bike lanes and other bike-friendly signage. City officials have said they would work with cyclists. The city is also working on a “complete streets” plan to include bikers’, pedestrians’ and bus riders’ needs in future street improvements.
Some cyclists attended the informal meeting to share their views. Martha Blackman and Karry Rood, both of Lenexa, said they liked the option with the bike lanes. Roads are generally better and faster than sidewalk trails for cyclists doing long trips, especially when there are group rides, they explained.
Because of that bicyclists are apt to ride on the road even when separate trails are available, said Blackman. “They’re going to mark the road for people to share the road. If they’re going to do that, give us a bike lane,” she said.
Rood said she doubted there would be many walkers on the new road, which is not near residential areas. But the route will be convenient for bicyclists because it will be a direct connection to Olathe.
Lynn Malir of Lenexa said she’d prefer not to mix bikes, runners and walkers on the same trail. Malir, who uses her bike for transportation, said commuter cyclists generally go too fast to mingle with walkers on the trails, “and pedestrians don’t like it when you whiz by. Putting cyclist and pedestrians together isn’t a good mix.”
Whatever the final design, Ridgeview Road will be an important new connection for the north-south travelers between Lenexa and Olathe. Ridgeview will be a completely new stretch of divided four-lane where no road now exists. The project includes construction of a half mile of 99th Street to connect Ridgeview with Britton Street. A section of natural gas pipeline will also be relocated to accommodate the road.
The new road should relieve some of the truck traffic on Renner Road and Woodland Road, said Tim Green, city engineer. Long-range plans call for Ridgeview Road to eventually continue north from Prairie Star Parkway to 87th Street.
The Ridgeview Road project has been talked about for the better part of two decades, but the project only lately became feasible because a new interchange for Olathe’s part of Ridgeview Road was built as part of the Gateway highway project at K-10. As it is now, drivers can only go south on Ridgeview from K-10.
In 2014, the city approved a 2.052-mill levy increase dedicated in part to raise money for the Ridgeview link. Ridgeview is expected to open a new part of Lenexa to development. The road is bounded by the Mill Creek streamway trail to the west and mostly empty land to the east. The Meritex underground park is also just to the east. There are no residential areas adjacent to the street. Zoning in the area is for light industrial and commercial use that could include small warehouses, offices or retail.
Because of its proximity to the park, the project also involves wetlands mitigation. Joining the road to Prairie Star Parkway will require fill dirt, which will disturb wetlands near the trailhead at that intersection, said project manager Ben Clark. Disruption of that half acre means the builders will have to create new wetlands. The plan is for about two acres of new wetlands just west of Ridgeview Road and south of the Mill Creek Streamway Park.