The Post asked readers in August about the issues they wanted to hear candidates running for Merriam mayor and city council seats address. Based on that feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire with the most important issues to Merriam residents.
Each day this week, we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we’re publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:
Merriam’s location along I-35 poses some challenges for creating walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. The cities of Merriam, Overland Park, Mission and Kansas City, Kan., recently embarked on a project to see how Merriam Drive/Lane can be improved — including walk and bikeability. What initiatives, if any, would you support to improve walk and bikeability in Merriam? Why?
Below are the answers the Post received from candidates on this issue:
Walkable and bikeable presents challenges in the city of Merriam especially when our roads need reevaluated for safety. More stop signs need added and pedestrian lights. Roads would have to be shortened. Merriam Dr. Would have a big change. The question would be how to make bike paths without adding more congestion to traffic and the adding safety to bikes. We have a nice hiking and walking paths in Merriam. Maybe adding more paths to the existing trails to local stores would be more beneficial for safety. A whole new plan for our streets would have to take place for safe bike roads. Merriam has added sidewalks which helps with more walkable spaces.
Fortunately these issues are currently being addressed. I am part of a committee that has been meeting over the past 4 months to work on the logistics and design of a bike path through Merriam. Also, the city is currently working on installing and widening the sidewalks throughout all of Merriam. The construction of the sidewalks are estimated to be finished in the next 3 years. During that time they will work in the construction of the bike path as well.
David Neal (incumbent)
As increased bikeability and walkability are important quality of life improvements that I fully support, there are some unique challenges facing the City of Merriam in connecting trails on opposite sides of I-35. Control of the Interstate 35 corridor rests with the state and federal government, so simply connecting the Turkey Creek Trail in Merriam with the Overland Park leg may be difficult. I support discussions with the state about doing that from Merriam’s Waterfall Park. That is the location where Turkey Creek goes under the I-35 bridges. My inspection of the site suggest that the current bridge design could also support a bike trail alongside Turkey Creek.
Also a bike lane could possibly be added to Merriam Drive which could be used to link our city to Kansas City MO in a joint effort with Merriam, Overland Park, Mission and Kansas City, Kansas. I voted for the joint project to see how Merriam Drive/Lane can be improved in terms of walk and bikeability. I am looking forward to the results of that work to guide us.
Should I be re-elected, there is another walkability problem that I would like to take a look at regarding the current inability for pedestrian and bike traffic to safely cross I-35 across the Shawnee Mission Parkway bridge. This effectively isolates the east and west portions of Merriam near our City Plaza and the Merriam Community
Center. There is not a sidewalk across the bridge and the bridge appears too narrow to accommodate one without losing a lane of traffic. Again the control of that roadway rests with a higher branch of government so discussions must be undertaken with the state to see what collaborative solutions could be considered.
As a city + community we should support any way we can improve walkability and bikeability! As part of the Downtown Merriam Corridor Committee we have talked about a few different things that could be implemented, one of the largest ones that I keep coming back to is potentially removing the center lane of Merriam Drive to slow down traffic and be able to create larger sidewalks or add bike lanes. Merriam Drive traffic studies show that there is feasibility to do this without causing issues with traffic flow. Ultimately, I would love to hear from the community as to what their vision is to make it more bikeable and walkable and make sure we are working across the cities to make Merriam Drive the true connector it should be.
I am very supportive of increasing both walkability and bike-ability. The Vision 2040 plan identified that both of these are important to our community. We are currently conducting a study to determine both where and how to accomplish this goal. Whenever we have a major street project, we take a look at the feasibility of adding bike lanes. We repair or add sidewalks and street lighting and address flooding, curbs and gutters. We try to address all concerns along that stretch of road so that there is minimal impact to the community. I currently serve on a Merriam Drive Corridor committee that has met several times. It is made up of representatives of United Government, Overland Park and Merriam officials, business community and residents. We walked and drove this area and looked at all aspects of this corridor. Sometimes there are 3 lanes and sometimes 4 lanes along this stretch of road. Some areas had sidewalks and some didn’t. We are collectively looking at ways to make this corridor more uniform that addresses bikeability, walkability and vehicular needs. We have been approached by a company to allow the addition of E-bikes in our City. These have grown popular in other communities as a way to transverse short distances. These might allow travel from Merriam to Southwest boulevard. We currently have the streamway park trail that runs north and south through Merriam. This trail provides an excellent way to walk and bike in a safe manner. Our biggest challenge is getting people across the great I-35 divide. East and West travel is impeded by this highway. I would like to see a combination bike/sidewalk added to Shawnee Mission Parkway that crosses over I-35. Unfortunately, this bridge and stretch of roadway is controlled by the State of Kansas. This will take a cooperative effort if we are able to accomplish this goal.
Angel Lopez III
Did not respond.
On Thursday, we’ll publish candidates’ answers to the following question:
Climate change continues to be top of mind for many Shawnee Mission Post readers. What steps can Merriam take to prepare neighborhoods for increased flooding, along with extreme heat and drought events? What steps would you like to see the city take to build climate resilience?