Shawnee residents cite safety and aesthetics as top priorities for 75th Street improvement project

Users of West 75th Street in Shawnee participated in a second open house last week for the city’s Re-Imagine 75th Street project.

Residents and travelers along 75th Street hope to see improvements to safety and beautification along the corridor in Shawnee.

These are some of the main findings from a months-long project to solicit feedback from the public on the city of Shawnee’s Re-Imagine 75th Street project. Another major finding: Residents hope the city spends a moderate or conservative amount of funding for the improvements.

Stephanie Malmborg, deputy community development director for Shawnee, said the purpose of the second open house on Sept. 17 was “to dive one level deeper” from the first open house in May. The project area is West 75th Street between Quivira and Switzer roads.

In particular, feedback from residents cite safety concerns for children walking to and from school at Trailridge Middle and Shawanoe Elementary. As a result, the city is making plans to add a school crosswalk for Shawanoe students crossing 75th near Nieman Road. The city may add a traffic island near Shawanoe as a “refuge” for pedestrians who may be stuck in traffic, especially in the event that motorists fail to stop at the crosswalk.

Residents and 75th Street users provided more specific feedback on their requests for improvements on safety and aesthetics along the corridor in Shawnee.

“We do see some issues sometimes with cars not seeing kids crossing,” she said. “Just like any other major street, you’re not always expecting pedestrians to be at the crossing, so whether it be at the school crossing or a major crossing at Nieman or Quivira or Switzer, we want to make sure that people are being noticed in those crosswalks, and we want to make those crosswalks more apparent.”

For the needs of cyclists looking for off-street cycling opportunities, the city is also considering adding a multi-use trail between 8 and 10 feet wide along the south side of 75th Street, Malmborg added.

Other options on the table include bus stop amenities and decorative or landscaped medians on the street.

Malmborg stressed that Re-Imagine 75th Street is not the same scope as Nieman Now!, the city’s larger-scale improvements project along the Nieman Road corridor that has been underway for several months. Residents have raised concerns about the Nieman project and, as a result, the city distributes frequent updates by email and online.

“This is essentially a mill and overlay project with aesthetic improvements,” Malmborg said of the 75th Street project. She said the city doesn’t anticipate closing 75th Street, taking years to complete or rebuilding utilities on 75th.

Shawnee is also communicating the project to neighboring cities Lenexa, Overland Park and Merriam, Malmborg said, adding that city staff are working to coordinate municipal efforts to make trail connections and street improvements.

Malmborg said resident feedback on the project so far indicates that 75th Street users are “very supportive” of doing improvements that accommodate other modes of transportation. They want to see the city take a step further than simply resurfacing the street, but without spending an exorbitant amount of funds for the project. At this stage, there are no fixed dollar amounts for the project, she added.

During the second open house last week, city staff also asked the public to look at survey responses for the project and narrow down those findings.

For instance, one priority listed by residents is for the city to add a trail along 75th Street that would connect with the trail along Blackfish Parkway, which connects with 75th at Pflumm Road. Residents also hope to see the city add a connection to the trail spur in Merriam along Turkey Creek — feedback from the second open house could also guide the city on residents’ preferred methods for meeting their requests.

“(We’re) just trying to gauge more specifically what people feel comfortable with, with some more specific details from those survey results,” Malmborg said.

The city is still collecting feedback from residents through another survey in the next few weeks. Malmborg said the city will have a final report on Re-Imagine 75th Street by the end of October.

Construction on improvements are expected to begin in the spring and be complete by fall 2020. Some longer-term and complex components of the project may take more time, Malmborg added.