Though nearly everyone in Shawnee agrees something needs to be done to make Midland Drive safer, there’s disagreement on just how much.
Now, the city council appears likely to leave $4 million of federal funds on the table for planned improvements along the highly trafficked connector between I-435 and Shawnee Mission Parkway due to the strings with which that money would come.
On Monday, during a discussion of the project — which is still years away from being started — councilmembers seemed in favor of preserving residents’ property lines, which could lead to a pared-back version of a plan intended to make Midland Drive more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.
Plan would add bike lanes and shared-use path
- A plan presented Monday to the city council would keep the road two lanes but would add four-foot bike lanes on either side of the street.
- It would also add a single 10-foot paved shared-use path, plus six feet of green space dividing the path from the road.
- Currently, that stretch of Midland is unimproved and mostly two lanes without sidewalks, surrounded by ditches on either side.
- Motorists often speed along Midland to get between the highway and busy Shawnee Mission Parkway.
There’s broad support for improvements
- During the Shawnee City Council committee meeting Monday, most public speakers and councilmembers agreed that something had to be done to make Midland safer.
- “It scares me to death,” Peter Jarchow, a member of the city’s bicycle advisory committee, said of the current state of Midland for bicyclists and pedestrians. “I highly applaud this as a project. I think it will make it much safer.”
- However, several neighbors were worried that the design presented would encroach too much on their properties, taking away front and side lots.
- Dena Fischer, who lives in the nearby Forest Rowe neighborhood, agreed that Midland is “terrifying” for walkers and bike riders but worried the plans as presented went too far.
- “The larger picture is the homeowners are going to be severely impacted,” she said, suggesting it be scaled down.
Federal funds require ‘complete street’ design
- The $4 million in federal money earmarked for the project, distributed through the Mid-America Regional Council, would require a certain amount of pedestrian and bike-friendly improvements.
- The city council seemed in favor of leaving that money on the table and doing away with or minimizing the 10-foot walking path that is part of the design.
- Council president Eric Jenkins said he was “sensitive” both to the neighbors’ concerns and safety issues, suggesting they go with a “diet version” of the plan as a compromise.
- Councilmember Jacklynn Walters said she’d been asking for a pared back proposal for months that would satisfy the need to make the road safer without sacrificing too much residential property.
- A formal vote was not taken Monday night.
The Midland project is still a few years off
- The project is currently scheduled for 2025 or 2026 in the city’s capital improvement project list.
- In all, the city’s plans for the project initially projected a $12.5 million expense, about half of which would be covered by the city.
- Now, city engineering staff will be looking to scale the plans back to about $8.5 million so as not to increase the city’s expense with the likelihood that the federal money won’t be used.
- Other concept designs for the project — including a previously recommended alternative — can be found here.
There’s potential for other outside funding
- The city could also receive up to $2 million in support from the Johnson County Assistance Road System program, or CARS, for the Midland project.
- That county money would have fewer strings attached than the MARC funding.
- That won’t be decided until closer to the project’s physical construction phase.
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But the future of that plan is now unclear.
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