Archive for Wednesday, November 23, 2005

K.C. transportation plan touted in area meeting

November 23, 2005

An ambitious transportation plan proposed for the Kansas City metropolitan would improve the quality of life for residents in the eight-county region that includes Leavenworth County, say the plan's backers.

Representatives of the Mid-America Regional Council, an association of city and county governments and the metropolitan planning organization for the bistate Kansas City region, presented the plan Thursday to an audience at the Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth.

Integral to the success of the plan is a proposal MARC hopes to send to the Kansas and Missouri state legislatures by January that would provide a funding mechanism for the plans by allowing a referendum for a metro-wide half-cent sales tax to fund a regional investment fund.

Ronald Achepohl, MARC assistant director of transportation, said the meeting was "part of a process to make sure we understand what the public is interested in" before going forth with that proposal.

Probably the most ambitious part of the plan is a public transit system throughout the area of linked bus routes that serve a variety of commuters, purposes and destinations, connecting neighborhoods and towns.

The system, called Smart Moves, is projected to cost $155 million a year. Achepohl said $67 million in new annual funding would be needed for Smart Moves to supplement current federal, state and local transportation funds.

Another component of the system is a system of greenways trails, named MetroGreen. The plan would incorporate 160 existing miles of trails with more than 1,000 miles of new trails, estimated to cost between $100,000 and $400,000 per mile to develop.

The third part of the plan, Green Light, would use new technology to coordinate 1,500 traffic signals on major streets in the region, and match signal timing to actual traffic patterns. The project consists of two phases, with 600 traffic signals in the first.

Achepohl said phase one, costing $14 million, already has been funded with federal money. Because the first phase targets the highest-volume trafficways, no signals in Leavenworth County will be affected when work begins in 2007. Achepohl said MARC still was searching for funding for the next phase, which would include 900 traffic signals.

Reception of the plan Thursday night was positive, and many of the 20 people attending offered comments and suggestions to MARC representatives after the presentation.

"I'd love to see bike lanes included in the plan," one woman said.

Clyde Huffam, a retired Lansing resident, said after the meeting there was "nothing to find fault with" in the plan, but that it was little more than a pipe dream until the money could be found to fund it.

Marcy Ann Smalley, transportation planner for MARC, said reaction in the previous 10 local public forum meetings for the plan had been positive. She said in December the agency would release a county-by-county poll on the plan.

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