For Shafer, Kline & Warren’s (SKW) engineers, the work on the intersections surrounding Independence Avenue and The Paseo began in 2002 with the goal of improving safety for drivers and pedestrians. Today, their design work is part of a comprehensive housing, transportation and urban development project to improve the Paseo Gateway district and create a safe, welcoming and vibrant community in the Northeast area of Kansas City.
This month, SKW kicked off the design phase of the $12 million Paseo Gateway transportation project to improve an intersection that has been historically ranked as one of the top five high-crash locations in the City of Kansas City. The transportation project is one pillar of the revitalization of the Paseo Gateway community, for which the City received a five-year $30 million federal Housing and Urban Development grant to invest in the area.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to make an impactful statement on a part of town that needs the help,” said SKW Transportation Team Leader Jay Burress. “It’s gratifying to move forward on a project we have been conversing with City leaders about for more than a decade. It’s a high-crash area. As engineers, we like to fix things that don’t work well to make them right and help keep people safe.”
In 2004, SKW designed an interim improvement for the intersection, which mitigated some of the danger of the intersection, but the scope of the project was limited by budgetary constraints. Then, throughout the past year and a half, SKW has worked with Zimmerman/Volk Associates, Shockey & Associates and Taliaferro & Browne on the pre-design phases of the project, which included economic impact studies, the drafting of 10 potential alignments for the intersection, and meetings with the public and other area stakeholders.
Kansas City’s Parks and Recreation Department has plans to include an architectural feature in the intersection to create a gateway to downtown and the boulevard system. Additionally, plans for the area are focused on creating business and economic growth opportunities as well as revitalizing an area park.
“It has truly been a collaborative process,” said Burress. “We worked to ensure the design selected was a win for all those involved. It needed to benefit the neighborhood and its residents while meeting the desires of Kansas City University and supporting future businesses coming to the area.”
The design will include reducing the intersection of Independence Avenue and the north and southbound lanes of The Paseo to a single, typical intersection with left turn lanes. This change will increase capacity for the intersection while reducing crashes. Additionally, a bridge on Cliff Drive will be removed, and the intersection of Cliff Drive and The Paseo will become a typical intersection, which will eliminate the merge and weaving issues that currently occur.
“In some ways, this reminds me of the Barry Road project in Kansas City, Missouri,” said Burress. “People were dying there because of roads and bridges that didn’t function well. We helped address that with a multi-phased roadway design project to accommodate the increased traffic and improve safety. Together with the addition of Zona Rosa, that project helped change the whole area. It would be amazing if we could similarly help flip the Paseo Gateway community.”
On March 20, the City began work to raze the Royale Inn as part of the comprehensive neighborhood project. Construction on the transportation portion of the project is anticipated to begin in spring 2019.