Leawood plan would create extensive network of trails for walkers, bikers throughout city

07/08/2014 12:02 PM

07/08/2014 2:06 PM

At nearly 200 pages long, ‘Self-Propelled Leawood,’ the pedestrian and bicycle master plan discussed at the Leawood City Council work session Monday evening, would be no small task to accomplish.

City officials raised questions and praised the depth of the plan after a presentation from Marty Shukert, a principal with RDG Planning and Design, an Omaha consultant group brought in to create the extensive pedestrian and bicycle network.

“I didn’t read it all in one sitting,” Mayor Peggy Dunn said with a laugh at the work session. “This plan that is going to be great for our city and set us apart. I’m on the trails every weekend and see how much love there is for this.”

Shukert said to create the plan his team biked or walked every street in Leawood. They held neighborhood meetings last September to gather residents’ input and had an online survey available that attracted 185 responses.

“(The plan) is about helping people get around the city on their own power, without reliance on cars,” Shukert said. “Leawood is on the radar as a bicycle-friendly city, and with investment, could become even more so.”

If approved, the plan would knit the city’s neighborhoods and major destinations together with a network of routes that “is safe, pleasant and comfortable for all groups,” according to the proposal.

About $4.5 million would be needed to pay for creating the network, Shukert said, but not all the projects may be needed and some federal grants may be available.

The proposed network is divided into five categories: principal lines, cross-city corridors, bicycle boulevards, neighborhood connectors and multi-use trails.

The principal lines, which Shukert highlighted in his presentation to the council, would link one end of Leawood to the other and cover long distances. These lines are most important functionally for local transportation, according to the proposal, and would include bike lines, enhanced side paths and segments of multi-use trails.

Examples would include a route connecting Ward Parkway Center to Ranch Mart shopping centers and a bikeway on Lee Boulevard.

Shukert’s team determined that 25 percent of all trips in Leawood are made within a mile of the home and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. This makes Leawood an ideal city for such a pedestrian and bicycle network, Shukert said.

Phase One of the plan, between 2015 to 2020, would first establish the most immediately needed routes, with later stages involving major regional trails and street reconstructions. The second phase from 2020 to 2025 would expand and enhance the basic system.

Because these routes largely involve adaptation of existing streets with minimum change, much of the proposed system can be created within the first five years, according to the proposal.

Leawood Parks Superintendent Brian Anderson said after the work session ended that the consultants would need to go through the document again and clean up some minor errors. He said he hopes Shukert and the team will be able to come back to the city planning commission and city council in August for approval.

To reach Caroline Bauman, call 816-234-4449 or send email to cbauman@kcstar.com.

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