Traffic on Quivira Road doesn’t just flow through Lenexa. It roars. With 16,000 jobs located in the road’s corridor and hundreds of new apartments being filled, stress levels are high, especially for walkers and bicyclists. Hence, the city has decided it’s time to give Quivira Road a second look.
City and local stakeholders are in the first stages of a study that will eventually guide planners on how the street should look and be developed in the coming decades. It’s being funded with $123,000 from the Mid-America Regional Council’s Sustainable Places program and $32,000 from Lenexa’s coffers.
The sustainable places grants generally encourage cities to look at ways streets can be configured to serve pedestrians, public transportation and bicyclists as well as cars. In this case, the city and consultant WSP USA will examine a mile-wide strip of the 2 1/2 -mile stretch from 79th Street to 99th Street.
The city is focusing on Quivira because of how heavily it’s traveled, said Magi Tilton, planning and development services manager for Lenexa.
“We’re looking at the redevelopment activity that is already occurring and we want to keep that momentum going,” she said. The study will look for ways to improve safety and public transportation services for pedestrians.
Quivira Road is an important connector between shopping areas and Oak Park Mall to the south and jobs and apartments farther north. The southern section being studied is near the construction site of three new hotels as well as shopping. The northern part runs past the new WaterSide apartment complex. Apartment development in that area will add about 480 units.
Similar studies in other parts of the metro have sometimes ended with a “street diet” recommendation. Most recently, Shawnee’s Nieman Road is being redone from four lanes to three, with the middle lane used for turning.
Tilton said the Quivira study isn’t far enough along yet to know what kinds of recommendations might emerge. But with the amount of traffic the road handles now, “I’m not sure making it smaller is going to keep the level of services for the traffic,” she said.
Traffic jams on Quivira have so far not been much of a problem, according to information the consultant has already collected. But there are generally more crashes in the area south of 93rd Street than farther north, said Jay Aber, senior traffic engineer with WSP.
The stress level is high, though, for bicyclists, most of whom are using the area for commuting or to get from place to place, rather than as a recreational ride, Aber said. The preliminary information suggested that only the “hard-core, fearless riders” who make up the top 1 percent of cyclists would feel comfortable riding on Quivira.
Local bicyclists were among the 20 or so people who turned out for the public input session on the study Sept. 21. The Facebook group iBike Lenexa recently formed to put bicycle friendliness higher on the city’s to-do list.
Jeff Carroll, who organized that group, said Quivira Road and 87th Street Parkway are the two most difficult places to ride in Lenexa, and deserve more attention to the needs of bicyclists. Making Quivira safer for cyclists would make a better potential biking connection all the way from Shawnee to Overland Park, and could benefit local businesses along the way, he said.
He said he hopes the city will make room on Quivira for some kind of bike lane. No one from the bike group is on the study advisory committee, but Carroll said his group will continue to bring up cycling needs to the city council and staff.
The study will also focus on other pedestrian problems, such as limited signage for bus routes and access under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The city will host two more public input meetings in November and January. The conclusions are scheduled to be presented to the city planning commission in April and the full city council in May.