(Poll) What changes can city planners make to curb congestion on Broadway?

Drivers in downtown Kansas City know well the congestion that rush hour brings along Broadway.

City planners, however, are pondering possible changes to the route between the Broadway Bridge and 12th Street.

The stretch is already congested and dangerous during peak periods, they say, and conditions will only worsen when prep work for the Main Street streetcar begins later this year.

“That work will send traffic elsewhere,” said Russ Johnson, Kansas City Council member and chairman of the city’s parking and transportation commission.

Broadway now has four lanes, two in each direction, but vehicles parked in on-street spaces crowd drivers much of the day.

Possible tweaks include establishing two “full-time” lanes in both directions, adjusting the availability of on-street metered parking and installing a center turn lane.

The discussion is preliminary, Johnson says, and no recommendations will move forward without input from stakeholders.

Among the concerns:

• Estimated peak-period delays at Broadway intersections from Fifth to Eighth streets range from 80 seconds (at Fifth Street) to 250 seconds (Seventh Street).

• About 40 metered on-street parking spaces reduce room for cars, sometimes in unnerving fashion.

Drivers headed south on Broadway, for instance, have to be alert just past Eighth Street, where the west-side lane gives way to metered parking spaces. Drivers are compelled to merge left into a single lane.

• Engineers have counted 353 accidents along Broadway from the Missouri River south to 14th Street from 2009 through 2011.

Sean Demory, Kansas City Public Works Department spokesman, calls says that number is significant compared with other downtown routes.

Among the possible solutions being considered is restricting on-street metered parking during rush hour.

About 40 metered parking spaces offer two-hour parking along Broadway.

Those spaces are available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. along Broadway northbound between Seventh and 11th streets, as well as southbound between Ninth and 11th streets.

Possible restrictions, if adopted, would not allow parking from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Another possible scenario, said John DeBauche, city planner, would make allowances for the prevalent traffic patterns in the morning and evening and restrict on-street parking accordingly.

“So, in the morning, with lots of people coming in from the Northland, there would be traffic allowed on the west side of Broadway, with parking allowed on the east side,” he said.

“And then, in the evenings, you would flip it.”

DeBauche anticipates soon presenting options to the Downtown Council infrastructure committee.

The stretch of Broadway south of the Broadway Bridge offers a diverse urban landscape.

It includes Garment District buildings, like those standing near Eighth and Ninth streets, that have been renovated into offices. But there also are restaurants and bars, on Broadway or nearby.

“We realize there’s a need for parking, and we realize we also need to address the needs of drivers,” Demory said.

Any formal recommendations would be submitted to the commission, a 14-member body including Johnson and two other City Council members.

“You always look for balance in transportation planning,” Johnson said. “It can’t be all cars or all bicycles. Any decision we would make would include a balanced approach.”

Additional evidence regarding the danger found on Broadway is being circulated by Doug Horn, a Kansas City area personal injury lawyer.

The intersection of Fifth Street and Broadway is on Horn’s list of the city’s 10 most dangerous intersections of 2012.

Horn, citing statistics compiled by the Missouri Highway Patrol, counted 30 accidents at the intersection, the only intersection in his top five not involving a highway.

Drivers attempting to make a right turn from westbound Fifth Street north onto the Broadway Bridge face a “perfect storm” of issues, Horn said.

There is a poor view of northbound Broadway traffic, he said.

Also, the two lanes dedicated to right turns at westbound Fifth Street cover an unusual amount to pavement.

A third factor is the higher rate of speed often exhibited by drivers navigating the steep downhill grade along Broadway from about Tenth Street to the Broadway Bridge, said Horn, who added that he has represented many clients involved in crashes on Broadway during a 23-year career.

Ann Brownfield, curator of the Garment District Museum at the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Broadway since 2001, long has watched visitors park their cars in metered spaces along Broadway.

“I certainly hope they make us aware of any changes they are considering,” she said.