Blackwell Road between Langsford Road and Shenandoah Drive. Jefferson Street between Second Street and Blue Parkway. Independence Avenue between Tudor Road and Chipman Road. What do these streets have in common? Within the past three years, each has been put on a road diet.
A road diet converts a street by reducing the number of lanes, adding a dedicated turn lane, and sometimes narrowing each lane by a foot or two. Have you ever looked down at your speedometer to the surprise that you were driving well over the speed limit?
Sometimes we just do not realize our speed when we drive on a wide street in a wide lane with several other cars doing the same. A road diet helps reduce the speed at which cars travel and, in turn, reduces accidents and injuries. A road on a diet allows just as many cars to travel that road without impeding traffic flow. In fact, with a dedicated turn lane, often the traffic flows more easily because traffic no longer has to line up behind a left-turning vehicle.
For pedestrians, a road diet means fewer lanes of traffic to walk across. A road diet can also mean added space along its side, maybe enough room for a bike lane or a pedestrian walkway. Often, all this is accomplished simply with re-striping. A road diet is one form of traffic calming.
There is also a traffic calming program in Lee’s Summit for residential streets. The Neighborhood Traffic Safety Program was developed by the Public Works Department and adopted by City Council in 2007. The NTSP provides a consistent, objective approach to evaluating traffic in residential areas, something that did not exist before the program’s inception. The City of Lee’s Summit received the 2013 Mid-Western Institute of Transportation Engineers Transportation Achievement Award for this program.
Traffic calming in neighborhoods relies on a resident-driven approach. More detail can be found at www.cityofls.net, but here’s how the program works:
1. A resident or property-owners association presents a concern.
2. City staff generates a traffic-study petition.
3. The petition is circulated in the neighborhood, and if the petition is signed by at least 50 percent of the residents.
4. There is a public meeting to discuss the traffic concerns.
5. A professional traffic study is conducted. These studies are standardized and include an objective
6. There is a meeting between City staff and the residents to determine what action to take.
Michael Park, City Traffic Engineer for the City of Lee’s Summit, provided me with extensive detail on this program and said, “Several outcomes of a Neighborhood Traffic Safety Program application and subsequent traffic study are possible: education, enforcement, and/or engineering. Some of the commonly used techniques for public education include neighborhood meetings, message boards, newsletters and pamphlets, neighborhood webpage or Facebook, City website, radar trailer, or resident radar loan.”
About enforcement, Park added, “Enforcement is coordinated between City staff and the Police Department using resident feedback from neighborhood meetings. Like education, an enforcement approach will have a temporary influence on driver behavior that should be revisited periodically.”
Examples of engineering approaches are speed bumps, raised crosswalks, neighborhood traffic circles, chokers and narrow lanes, center islands and median barriers. For an engineering modification to be considered, two conditions must be met: 1) objectively-defined scoring criteria; and 2) 75 percent support of the affected residents and 100 percent of any property owner immediately adjacent to the area under consideration for traffic calming.
If there is enough support of residents, improvements will be designed, bid, and constructed. Traffic-calming projects are reviewed within 12 months of completion to determine effectiveness in addressing the original concerns.
With this consistent, objective approach to traffic calming in residential areas, there is resident involvement and buy-in and better management of City resources.
Traffic calming, including the road diet, result in livable streets for Lee’s Summit.
Kathy Biagioli is a Lees Summit resident, middle school teacher and Chair of the Education and Encouragement Subcommittee of the Lees Summits Livable Streets Advisory Board, a Mayor-appointed volunteer board whose goals include working to make the community and streets livable, safer and accessible for all citizens.