It’s hard to walk to a school with no sidewalks

05/22/2014 8:25 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

The problem

Gladstone resident Karen Merkel wonders why Oak Park High School, nearly 50 years after it opened, still has no sidewalks for students who walk to and from school.

“Most of the surrounding neighborhoods have sidewalks, but they do not connect with the school,” she said. “This past winter, I witnessed students trudging through a foot of snow in the grass and ditch along 79th Terrace to get to school. The intersection at 79th Terrace and North Troost is dangerous, with drop-offs at the corner. Storm drains and sidewalks are greatly needed in this area.”

The answer

Sidewalks are primarily the responsibility of the property owner, said Kansas City Public Works spokesman Sean Demory.

“The (school) district chose not to build sidewalks when they built Oak Park, which is why they’re not currently in place.”

That said, his department has been asked to estimate the cost of upgrading the hilly section of Northeast 79th Terrace from North Troost Avenue to North Cherry Street, where it can be hard for drivers to see very far ahead. That came to just over $1 million for flattening the road and putting in sidewalks, curbs and new pavement.

It will be up to the Public Improvements Advisory Committee, Demory said, to help determine where the project falls on Kansas City’s priority list.

Michelle Cronk, spokeswoman for the North Kansas City School District, said Merkel’s is the first request the district has heard for sidewalks outside the school at 825 N.E. 79th Terrace.

“When the high school was built in the 1960s, the attitude about sidewalks and walking to school was a bit different,” she said.

Cronk said the district would submit the request for sidewalks.

“Unfortunately, the dollars for such work are limited within KCMO and we have had to prioritize our requests based on where the need is greatest, which would be first with our elementary schools.”

The Watchdog heartily endorses amenities that encourage traveling on foot. His career ambition is to be the driver of a walking school bus.

Do you have a problem or a question about a public issue? Write to the Watchdog, The Kansas City Star, Newsroom, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108, or send email to watchdog@kcstar.com. Include your name, phone number and city of residence.

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