Overland Park & Leawood

Connex bus route dedication planned for May 31

Frequent rain and snow this spring delayed work on the new Connex bus route along Metcalf Avenue, but not enough to put off a ribbon cutting planned for 8:30 a.m. May 31.

The Johnson County Commission took a tour of the route Thursday for a preview of the new stops, park-and-ride facilities and Mission Transit Center.

The Connex project starts at Rosana Square at 119th Street and Metcalf Avenue and continues into Kansas City. However, riders can access it as far south as 137th Street and Antioch Road through connections. The route also touches the Country Club Plaza.

Connex is a major redo of the old Route 556 and is similar to the Kansas City MAX system. There will be 12 bus stops and three park-and-ride locations, as well as a new hub at 5251 Johnson Drive, the site of the ribbon cutting. The route will open for riders June 3.

Riders will notice several differences between Connex and regular bus routes, said Chuck Ferguson, deputy transportation director of The JO. For example, the new buses will stop only at designated Connex stops, which are fewer than would be on a standard bus route. Also, the new buses are equipped with a device that can hold a green light at any of the 29 traffic lights when traffic is slow. These are designed to make the service faster, he said.

The bus stop shelters are updated and will include digital displays with real-time scheduled updates on bus arrivals.

While regular bus routes have been cut back and fares increased over the past two years, the Connex project has proceeded. Money for the new buses and stops came from $10.7 million in a federal grant commonly known as TIGER funds.

The project also included four miles of improvements for pedestrians, with bike-hike trails, landscaping and 1,200 feet of sidewalk. The trail, from 110th Street to 75th Street along Metcalf, was the most delayed by weather, Ferguson said, and is still not quite complete.

Pedestrian, bike and mass transit options are all part of the Vision Metcalf plan supported by Overland Park officials, said Jack Messer, planning and development director.

The new bus service and pedestrian trails will help the city build a new identity for its main street that will “create a more vibrant, active and exciting place to work and play,” he said.

Vision Metcalf is a 30-year strategy for the redevelopment of the street, he said. A key part of the city’s planning is for mixed use, green space and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that have options for other types of transportation in addition to cars, Messer said.

On the tour last week, commission members also stopped for a look at the old King Louie building. The county bought the building with plans for a museum and other uses, including off-duty parking for buses. So far, those plans are still being developed.