Overland Park council signals early support for idea of ‘road diet’ on College Blvd.

Overland Park officials say a “road diet” on College Boulevard would help increase pedestrian access in the area around the convention center.

A lane reduction appears in the cards for a one-mile section of College Boulevard as part of a plan to make the Overland Park corridor a more attractive destination for convention center visitors and nearby office workers.

The city council Monday night gave a favorable nod toward a road diet that would turn the road’s six lanes between Metcalf and Nall Avenues into four and reduce the speed limit to 40 miles per hour from 45.

Parallel and diagonal parking spaces would be added to the former outside traffic lanes but staff members told the council committee meeting that the road isn’t large enough to accommodate bike lanes. A safer alternative for bicyclists would be the bike lanes that already exist on 110th Street, they said.

The council members told staff to proceed with a pavement restriping plan that would be a first step toward a more pedestrian friendly corridor they hope will bring new business and entertainment to the area near the convention center.

“Suburban office buildings, although they are nice and convenient, don’t offer all the amenities that office workers and residents want today,” said Councilmember Curt Skoog. “This plan that we all approved and have moved forward to get to this point has created a vision for how to get to a different place. I think there’s nothing more impactful than changing the streetscape.”

Change would add 100 on-street parking spots

The new pavement markings will cost about $20,000 and are planned to coincide with a mill/overlay project already on the schedule for next year. Some council members noted that if the lane diet doesn’t work, it will be relatively easy to change things back.

The change would add about 100 parking spots and would reduce the lane width by six inches to ten and a half feet.

Reducing the lanes is not expected to have an adverse impact on the traffic flow along College because the street has too much capacity already, according to a traffic study presented to the council. College Boulevard currently runs at only a third of the capacity as a six-lane road, and half for a four-lane, and that has declined recently in part due to improvements on Interstate 435, the study said.

The heaviest traffic in that area runs north and south along Metcalf and Nall, the study said. For that reason, the lane changes are not planned for the immediate vicinity of those two intersections. The intersections at Lamar Avenue and Glenwood Street will need future improvement to the signals to deal with increasing traffic backups, the study said.

The part of College in question was widened to six lanes in the late 1980s. But for the past year, city leaders have been holding a series of meetings about how to bring more people out to restaurants and gathering spaces, perhaps keeping some office workers and convention goers from turning toward Leawood or elsewhere for entertainment options after the work day is done.

“Right now the thought is there’s no place for them to go once they get back to the hotel room. By doing this I think we are making an attempt to provide these folks with something to walk to,” said Councilmember Rick Collins.

The road restriping is only a first step in a larger plan to improve the looks and friendliness of that corridor. In April the council endorsed a plan for the area designed to slow the cars and make it easier for pedestrians to walk across the street.

One resident, Rich Herbst, attended the meeting and asked the committee to consider adding artwork and pocket parks to beautify the area.