By LESLIE COLLINS
April 3, 2013
Funding has now been secured to redesign the intersection of Benton and Independence Boulevard.
Scott Overbay of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department provided a project update during the March 26 Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce meeting.
The intersection redesign is the final phase in the Independence Boulevard Streetscape Improvements project, which began in 1996.
In addition to being a major thoroughfare in Historic Northeast, Independence Boulevard became the first boulevard in the city’s parks and recreation boulevard system in 1893. Completed in 1910, Independence Boulevard catered to horse and buggy and the early automobile. The parks department began studying the boulevard in the 1990s, looking for ways to enhance the boulevard and make updates for modern traffic.
Past streetscape improvements along the boulevard have included updating traffic signals, realigning intersections, installing decorative pedestrian lighting, landscaping, adding additional parking spaces, installing street name tiles at intersections, among other improvements.
One of the main goals for redesigning Benton and Independence Boulevard is to improve both traffic and pedestrian safety. During a 2006 to 2008 traffic study, the city counted 45 vehicle accidents; three of those involved pedestrians.
“We knew we needed to take care of traffic safety and pedestrian safety,” Overbay said.
Other goals of the intersection project include preserving the historical context of the intersection while still accommodating modern vehicles and traffic laws; minimizing the negative impact of construction for surrounding businesses and property owners; engaging the neighborhoods and businesses, among other goals.
The parks department received a $1.4 million grant through the Missouri Department of Transportation and $660,000 in matching funds from the city’s Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) to improve the intersection and implement improvements along other sections of the boulevard which will range from repairing sidewalk tiles and light poles to improving seat walls and general maintenance, among others.
Construction could begin as early as late 2015, but will most likely begin in 2016, Overbay said. The intersection will include four mast arms and four pedestrian signals which will be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, and will include pedestrian crosswalks and two pedestrian islands for easier crossing. Each traffic island will be elevated eight inches above the roadway. Other improvements will include landscaping, decorative lighting, additional sidewalks, a brick column to identify the historic intersection, a decorative fence, seat walls for those waiting for the bus, among other design elements.
“There’s a lot of work yet to do before we start construction,” he said.
The city will need to secure easements and the Public Works Department must conduct a final review of the plans. From there, the plans will be sent to MoDOT for its approval since MoDOT administered the grant. The design will be subject to change depending on the construction bids received, he said. Once construction begins, Overbay estimates construction will be completed within eight to 9 months.