By Paul Thompson
According to Parks and Recreation project manager James Wang, the intersection of Independence Avenue and The Paseo is among the most dangerous in Kansas City.
“This intersection is the worst intersection in the city in terms of crash rate,” Wang said.
At least that’s the case historically. On the evening of Wednesday, October 11 at Kansas City University, Wang and the Paseo Gateway Project team unveiled a “preferred alternative” to the current layout of the dangerous intersection that aims to reduce crashes while creating a welcoming gateway between the Historic Northeast and downtown.
The intersection improvements have been in the works since 2015, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a $30 million grant to Kansas City and its local partners. The funds are intended to improve the quality of life for those in and around the Paseo Gateway area, a goal that hinged upon the creation of improved public housing in the neighborhood but also included the implementation of The Paseo Gateway Project.
The Paseo Gateway team initially presented nine potential intersection re-designs to the community, before narrowing the list down to five ahead of a February 3, 2016 public meeting with area residents. From there, the preferred alternative that was presented on October 11 emerged.
A reduced crash rate at the intersection is just one of the perks of the improvements, which will also include a two-way bicycle trail and improved sidewalks with ramps at all intersections.
“The sidewalks are going to be wider, and they’re all going to have ADA-compliant ramps at the intersections,” said Jay Burress, Paseo Gateway project manager for consultant Shafer, Kline & Warren, Inc.
The roads at the intersection will also be widened to provide motorists on Independence Avenue with left-turn lanes for safer access southbound onto the Paseo and northbound onto the I-35 on-ramp. Another highlight will be the construction of a second intersection to the north of Independence and The Paseo, which will slow highway traffic and provide a safer connection between the west end of Kansas City University’s campus and I-35’s off-ramp.
The project team has $8.5 million to begin improvements, thanks to $5 million in Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds and $3.5 million from the general obligation bond funds approved by voters in April 2017. Construction is expected to begin in 2019, and the improvements are currently scheduled to be completed by Thanksgiving of 2020.
In addition to the reveal of the intersection design, the Paseo Gateway team solicited feedback from attendees about a potential “iconic” monument at the intersection. In a document offered to attendees, the team noted that the Paseo Gateway presents “a unique placemaking opportunity to create a welcoming and meaningful introduction to the Northeast neighborhood, as well as Kansas City as a whole.”
International Architects Atelier (IAA) has been brought in to design the Paseo Gateway monument, though IAA claimed at the October 11 meeting that they’re starting the project from scratch. To receive feedback from area residents, IAA set up stations during the meeting: one to discuss potential headlines related to the gateway, one to discuss factors of success, and another to discuss features that residents don’t want at the intersection. The final station offered displays with dozens of monument designs from around the world, and asked attendees to choose their favorite – and least favorite – offerings.
IAA will take all of the ideas provided by the community into consideration as they work to design the iconic gateway between downtown Kansas City and the Historic Northeast. The firm estimated that gateway concepts could be ready as soon as early 2018.