The Kansas City Council voted last week to commit $2 million to improve a stretch of Northwest Englewood Road if the Missouri Department of Transportation will contribute $1.5 million to the project.
Officials also expect a developer to invest as much as $2 million if the project to expand residential and retail offerings west of U.S. 169 moves forward.
The stretch of Northwest Englewood between the highway and Northwest Waukomis Drive has seen little improvement since the city annexed the area in the mid-1960s. The hilly, narrow throughway has a higher than average accident rate and poor sightlines.
Bicyclists don’t have dedicated lanes. There’s not much of a buffer between traffic and the sidewalks children take to West Englewood Elementary, and no sidewalk runs west of a bus stop on the east side of U.S. 169.
District 2 Councilman Russ Johnson says it is clearly not the safest street.
“When nobody lived in the Northland, it was probably an adequate road, but we’ve built more houses and more people live there. So we need to make it more of a safe street for the people who live there,” says Johnson.
Traffic problems on the road start at the highway interchange where a frontage road meets the off-ramp awkwardly. A proposed retail and residential development on the southwest side of that interchange would bring more traffic to the area.
Sheila Tracy, president of the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce says Englewood Road is an important east-west corridor for getting people back and forth from work and school, and traffic already backs up badly near U.S. 169.
“There’s a need for it right now, but with further development there will be a greater need,” says Tracy.
City planners agree it is time to move forward.
Wes Minder, manager of neighborhood design, says the planned upgrades would make the area compliant with the city’s complete streets vision, and make a dangerous roadway safer. Improvements would include sidewalks along the entire route built to boulevard standards. Wider greenspace between the sidewalk and traffic would make pedestrians safer.
The improved road would include bicycle lanes, curbs, gutters and a grassy median between the east- and westbound lanes. The median is another safety feature designed to prevent head-on collisions. New streetlights would help improve visibility.
The city has spent $150,000 on preliminary engineering for the work.
This project does not answer concerns about the condition of Northwest Englewood Road farther east between North Oak Trafficway and Antioch Road.
“We do have issues there, and we’d like to figure out a way to fix it,” says Minder.
Two major challenges prevent fixing the eastern stretch of Northwest Englewood Road. The road is the dividing line between Gladstone and Kansas City, requiring the city to cooperate on any improvements, and the road has already been improved. Even though those improvements came decades ago and need updating, funding is easier to secure for an unimproved road like the portion of Northwest Englewood Road west of U.S. 169.
Minder says Kansas City has spent $32 million on street reconstruction citywide since 2010. In the Northland, projects include North Oak Trafficway south of Briarcliff Parkway.
A funding recipe that includes input from a developer, the city and the Missouri Department of Transportation would make the Northwest Englewood Road project likely, but it would fund work for only about half of the planned distance between the highway and Northwest Waukomis Drive. Minder is hoping for a federal grant to extend the upgrades.
Officials hope improvements on Northwest Englewood Road will be finished sometime in 2016.