Leawood to widen scenic stretch of Lee Boulevard to accommodate cyclists

Lee Boulevard is a popular route for cyclists. The city of Leawood plans to add bike lanes to accommodate them.

A scenic stretch of Lee Boulevard in north Leawood, known for its popularity among cyclists, is getting bicycle lanes and some related road improvements this summer.

The city plans to widen the roadway on Lee Boulevard between 93rd and 103rd streets by two feet and narrow the driving lanes to accommodate four-foot-wide bike lanes going both directions.

Brian Scovill, city engineer of the city of Leawood, said the city’s pedestrian and bicycle master plan “Self-Propelled Leawood,” a document created in collaboration with residents, identified Lee Boulevard as a principal route for cyclists.

Scovill said WaterOne and the city are also collaborating to replace the water main along Lee Boulevard during the street widening project to minimize additional disruption to the neighborhood and motorists.

Here is a list of components of the project:

  • Two 11-foot driving lanes
  • Two 4-foot bike lanes
  • Add 8-inch concrete edge curb on both sides of street
  • Replace curb and gutter on west side of Lee Boulevard from Lee Circle (north) to 98th Street.
  • Mill and overlay and repair troubled areas with deep patches
  • Replace driveway approaches
  • Install about 1,500 feet of stormwater pipe and nine area inlets along the west side of Lee Boulevard between 97th and 98th streets
  • Replace guardrail south of 98th Street

Scovill said the city doesn’t need to acquire additional private property to widen Lee Boulevard.

The city plans to fund the $1.9 million road widening project with “pay as you go” city funds as well as $888,000 in matching funds from the Johnson County County Assistance Road System program.

Scovill said the Lee Boulevard widening project is part of the city’s five-year capital improvement plan. The city invited property owners near next to the roadway to attend a public meeting March 25 to learn about the project and ask questions.

Scovill said the city plans to start the project in June and complete it in November. During construction, Lee Boulevard will be closed to through traffic and detoured to State Line Road.

Here’s what other parts of Lee Boulevard look like, although the lines mark the edge of the lane and are not actually bike lanes:

Lee Boulevard just south of Brook Beatty Park. Photo courtesy of Mary Lee Duff

Once the project is complete, the city will upkeep the street with regular sweeping of bike lanes. Scovill said the city sweeps streets with bike lanes more frequently to make sure they’re safe to use.

Jay Dunfield, a Leawood resident and casual cyclist who lives north of the project area, said he also wants bike lanes near his home, but he is concerned that bike lanes will not be maintained well.

“I have my head on a swivel the whole time, probably more so on Lee Boulevard than I would on Mission or Roe just because there’s not any room to bail out,” Dunfield said. “At least I have a curb or a sidewalk I can get up to on the other streets. There’s no way for traffic to get around you on Lee Boulevard…Even with that little two-foot strip that they kinda have marked off now, it’s horribly inadequate, and if I have to ditch, I’m literally going into a ditch most of the time.”

Dunfield said he thinks the city should not install bike lanes on roads that require “substantial infrastructure.”

“Lee Boulevard seems so crowded already,” he said. “I just don’t know how they’re physically going to make that possible.”

In recent years, the street has had an uptick of cyclists along Lee Boulevard. Mary Lee Duff, a Leawood resident who lives on Lee Boulevard just north of the project area, said she’s seen groups of 50 or more cyclists at a time; she’s also noticed an increase in cut-through traffic as well as construction equipment moving through the area, another hazard.

“It sounds scary to me,” Duff said, adding that she wondered if the city would consider reducing the speed limit of 35 mph to make it safer for cyclists.

Scovill said city leaders are looking into performing a traffic study along Lee Boulevard from Somerset Drive to the Leawood City Park later this year or in early 2020 to evaluate and recommend a consistent speed limit along the corridor.

Duff said she hopes residents can be more involved in creating a vision for the future of Lee Boulevard.

“We just think it would be great for the residents to know what the city envisions for the future of Lee Boulevard,” Duff said, adding that she hopes residents can also be included in the city conversations about widening Lee Boulevard. “I’m concerned that we might be throwing pavement at the problem.”