Mission to consider removing traffic barriers along Hodges Drive; neighbors hope to keep streets blocked

Leah Wankum - January 9, 2019 1:21 pm
Hodges Drive
The planter at Hodges and West 61st Terrace was damaged last May when a vehicle crashed into it.

Large planters barricade the ends of three streets that connect to Hodges Drive in Mission.

And while many residents in the neighborhood want to keep them in place, saying that dead ends foster public safety and better connections with their neighbors, city leaders are in talks of removing the planters because they don’t meet federal highway standards as proper barricades.

The planters block the connections to Hodges Drive from three streets: West 62nd Terrace, West 62nd Street and Juniper Drive / West 61st Terrace (those two roads merge at the intersection). The three streets have been barricaded in some form, such as the guardrails that were installed when Hodges Drive was built in the 1970s.

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City administrator Laura Smith will update the council tonight on the status of the planters, including residents’ concerns as well as a traffic engineer’s review of the situation. City staff will not make recommendations for the council to discuss or consider for a vote, Smith added.

“If the city council and the city staff were 100 percent sold on taking the planters out, we would have just gone in years and years and years and years ago and taken the planters out,” Smith said. “We’re here talking about it because we understand the history and sensitivity of this issue. But it’s time to do something different with the planters that are now damaged.”

A vehicle crashed into one of the barriers in June 2018. The damage has not been repaired, and the city has since raised concerns that the barricades pose a danger to traffic. Smith said the planters don’t meet federal highway standards.

“They aren’t ‘crash-worthy,’” Smith said, adding that the barriers also lack reflectivity for motorists driving at night. “They have a potential to create a greater hazard for the driving public.”

Smith said the barricades also block public access, slow down response times by public safety personnel and impede garbage trucks and snow plows from conveniently accessing the streets.

There is no time frame for possible removal of the barriers, although the planters will probably need to be removed regardless, Smith said. The city could possibly replace the planters with safer barricades, she added.

Neighbors raise concerns of public safety, speedy cut-through traffic

Hodges Drive
The planter at Hodges Drive and West 62nd Street in Mission.

Neighbors shared their concerns with the city in a Nov. 29 meeting.

Joanne and Ron Stang, long-time Mission residents who live near the planter at Hodges and Juniper, said they at least want to keep their road blocked.

“For all of us, from what I’ve heard, it’s a safety concern,” said Joanne Stang, citing comments from neighbors who say dead ends will keep traffic local and allow children to enjoy playing safely in the streets.

Neighbors are also concerned with the potential increase for cut-through traffic from Shawnee Mission Parkway and Roe Avenue. They said studies show that houses on dead-end streets also have higher property values and lower crime rates.

Susie Genova, who lives on Hodges Drive near one of the barriers, gathered dozens of petitions from residents asking the city to keep the planters in place. The shared responsibility of caring for the plants in the planters — and the dead-end streets themselves — have created a sense of community, she added.

Genova and Kelly Pinkham, another resident on Hodges Drive, are concerned the city will remove the planters without including the neighbors in the decision-making process. They think tonight’s meeting lacked sufficient notification.

“I’m going to attend with an open mind to see what they have come up with,” Genova added.

Pinkham said he’s concerned the city will remove the planters without putting other barricades in place, “turning the usability of streets into an experiment.”

“The type of barriers we have, the planters, are recommended by a variety of anti-crime studies to be used as a way to create safer streets,” Pinkham said. “They’re not something to be gotten rid of; they’re something to be adopted. They’re a solution. To see them only as a problem is a mistake from the beginning.”

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