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Prairie Village adopted the Village Vision Strategic Investment Plan, an initiative filled with two years of research and 48 ideas for improving the safety, character and prosperity of the city in 2007. The ideas ranged from further developing Corinth Square to giving out incentives for home renovations. Of the many suggestions was a plan to turn Mission Road into not only a safer street for pedestrians, but the “Main Street” of Prairie Village.
Now, after over a decade since the the plan’s conception, the first part of Mission Road’s renovation, the reduction to three lanes from 71st to 75th St., has been completed.
Making Mission Road safer became the city council’s priority for 2016 in a close 6-5 vote after a group of concerned parents and residents spoke out about the problems with the road’s safety in April 2015. The group was worried about the skinny sidewalks and lack of buffer space between the sidewalk and the street. After the vote, the council set out to determine the best plan for balancing the needs of pedestrians with the needs and wants of drivers.
“We had numerous discussions at City Council meetings, heard from the public and formed a committee to work with planners and engineers to investigate the concepts,” Mayor Laura Wassmer said. “We came up with several options and presented them to the public for input, and the option being implemented is the option that received the most support from the community and the governing body.”
The final plan for Mission Road’s renovation combined the safety needs of the residents with the desired character improvements from the original idea, and it consisted of two phases.
The first phase, completed in early August, focused on the “safety” aspect of the plan. It was comprised of shortening Mission Road to two traffic lanes and one turning lane, widening the sidewalk to 8 feet and adding a 4-7 foot buffer area between the sidewalk and the curb.
The second phase, starting in 2017, will concentrate on the “character” side of the plan and will include adding aesthetic improvements such as streWet tiles, benches and streetlights with banners on the west side of Mission Road. In addition, the road will be repaved from 75th to 83rd Street but will not be narrowed. However, more construction could be coming as early as this fall in order to install the benches and do landscaping work in preparation for phase two.
According to Wassmer, the wider sidewalks have already proved beneficial for walkers, runners and bikers alike since the first phase’s completion.
“I have seen more families with young children riding their bikes along the trail, which I see as a positive,” Wassmer said. “I am also excited that this area will be safer for pedestrians during the Lancer Day Parade and other school events.”
Additionally, the wider sidewalks have made running on Mission much safer for East’s cross country team.
“We [used to] have to run in single file or pass people on the street,” Senior varsity runner Jack Young said. “Now it feels safer. You don’t feel like you’re going to get hit by a car every time one passes.”
Although feedback from pedestrians has been positive, many drivers, including junior Matthew Hyatt, have not been so ecstatic about the change. He is angered by the lane reduction and believes that having four traffic lanes is more important than wider sidewalks.
“It has made things a lot slower,” Hyatt said. “I used to be able to pass people whenever I wanted if they were going too slow, but now I can’t. I drive more, and I don’t see as many people needing wider sidewalks.”
Wassmer understands these complaints, though she feels that people will be more satisfied with the changes once the project is completed.
“Pedestrian safety [is] the biggest issue for residents living nearby,” Wassmer said. “Based on the traffic studies, we felt we could create a safer pedestrian corridor while still handling the traffic.”
After the second phase is finished, the “Main Street” concept for Mission Road will finally be implemented, something Wassmer has wanted to see through since the start of the Village Vision plan. She also believes that people will come to accept the new changes to the road.
“We know that changing this stretch of Mission Road will take some time for drivers to adjust,” Wassmer said. “With time, we believe that some drivers will choose to find an alternative route [or] will learn how to better navigate the changes, just as they have north of 71st St. where the traffic has been two lanes for years.”