We need YOU to help plan for reducing risks from natural disasters

Changes in climate conditions and the rising costs to repair public and private property makes it even more important to consider steps to reduce risks from natural disasters. Local governments, school districts and others prepare a hazard mitigation plan every five years to evaluate their risks and identify actions they may take to mitigate loss of life and property. Over the past year, the region has experienced increasing threats from flooding, severe winter storms, heat and drought, and tornadoes.

As MARC begins our 2019 Hazard Mitigation planning process, it is important to include representatives from all aspects of public service — elected officials, planning and building services, emergency services, environmental planning, public health, public works and transportation, school district and college personnel and more.

For example, transportation is impacted in a natural disaster:

  • Many communities have low water crossings in residential and commercial areas that are prone to flooding from rising streams or flash flooding due to overloaded storm drainage systems.
  • Evacuation routes need to be identified to allow emergency response to take people to safety.
  • Air and freight networks bring supplies and support from other regions.
  • Communication tools like KC Scout share important messages with the public.

This is why we hope to see elected officials, city administrators, emergency managers, public works directors, transportation planners — and you — at an event for developing and implementing a hazard mitigation and community resilience effort.

The keynote speaker is Linda Langston, director of strategic relations at the National Association of Counties (NACo), and former supervisor of Linn County, Iowa. Langston will discuss the importance of hazard mitigation planning and preparing for disasters, why local governments, schools and others should care, and how to approach the planning process with a holistic view.

Workshop topics:

  • What are the hazard mitigation requirements for local plans?
  • Do all jurisdictions face the same challenges?
  • Have the challenges changed over the past five years?
  • How are risks changing with climate change or other conditions?
  • What actions have local governments taken to mitigate hazards and what results did they achieve?
  • Which strategies have proven most effective in mitigating hazards?

Don’t get distracted by detours! Find easy commute alternatives during I-435 and I-70 interchange construction

Missouri Department of Transportation crews will begin working at the I-435 and I-70 interchange beginning on Thursday, March 7! The project includes removing left exits on I-435, making safety improvements at the loop ramps, adding lanes on I-435 in each direction and building new bridges within the interchange. The work will have major traffic impacts over the course of two construction seasons. Learn more about the project.

On both Thursday, March 7, and Friday March 8, beginning at 9 a.m., crews will close the right lane of eastbound I-70 from 18th Street to Cleveland Ave. until approximately 3 p.m. each day. This closure is to stage signs, equipment and detours routes.

The following ramps will be closed throughout March and remain closed until December 2020:

  • Westbound I-70 loop ramp to southbound I-435. The signed detour will use westbound I-70 to Manchester to turn around on eastbound I-70 to southbound I-435.
  • Eastbound I-70 loop ramp to northbound I-435. The signed detour will use US 40 starting near 31st Street to northbound I-435.
  • Manchester Trafficway on-ramp to westbound I-70.
  • I-70 eastbound exit ramp to Manchester.

The project has the potential to add more time to your daily commute, presenting a great opportunity to explore other commuting options through RideshareKC.

  • Find a carpool partner at RideshareKC.org. This website connects you with others who live and work near you and want to carpool.
  • Take the bus. Find bus routes and schedules at RideKC.org. Rather than sitting in traffic, you can read, listen to music or chat with other riders.
  • Park and ride. The Kansas City region has many park and ride lots where you can meet up with fellow carpool riders and connect to public transit. Find a park and ride lot.

If you regularly take the bus, carpool, vanpool or ride a bike to work, register for the Guaranteed Ride Home program and we’ll provide up to two taxi rides home per year in case of emergency. Call 816-842-RIDE (7433) or visit RideshareKC.org for more information.

RTP 2050 Call for Projects seeks regionally significant transportation projects

The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) 2050 Call for Projects is now open! The purpose of this call is to solicit all types of transportation projects from across the Kansas City metro that address transportation needs identified for the region. Projects submitted should be regionally significant in nature.

This process is intended to prioritize projects to be included in the plan’s financially constrained list. While this is not an application for specific funding, inclusion in the plan is a requirement in some cases, and a boost in others, for future funding opportunities. The Call for Projects will close on April 25 at 4 p.m.

After the deadline, all applications will be made available online for public review and comment. MARC staff will also score the projects based on a set of established criteria then assemble the projects into packages. They will use modeling software to see how these groups of projects — also called scenarios — impact certain outcomes of the transportation system. Ultimately, a list of financially constrained projects will be included in the final plan, slated to be adopted in June 2020.

RTP 2050 is the update to the region’s current long-range transportation plan, Transportation Outlook 2040. Per federal requirements, long-range plans must be updated every five years, have at least have a 20-year time horizon and demonstrate financial constraint with resources that can reasonably be expected to be available over the life of the plan.

Fight the winter blues with active commuting

Does the long cold winter have you feeling down? Not getting enough exercise? Feeling cooped up in your house?

Whether you’re dealing with a mild case of the winter blues or the more serious seasonal affective disorder, one of the best things to do is get outside.

One way to be more active outdoors is to leave your car at home and try an active form of commuting — take the bus, walk or bike. Trying an active commute during the winter months can seem a bit daunting at first but with a little willpower and preparation, you can do it! Not only will you improve your overall mood, you’ll be getting exercise and saving money.

Visit RideshareKC to get started with active commuting. You can find information about bus and bike routes and make connections with others who might have a similar commute. A commute buddy can help ease the transition to a new mode and keep you motivated. You can also find potential carpool matches at the site.

Tips to deal with winter weather active commuting:

  • Quick change — Keep clothes at work to change into, especially warm socks and shoes.
  • Stay hydrated — With drier winter air, it’s more important to stay hydrated when exercising.
  • Layer up — Wearing multiple thin layers is key. Synthetic based layers that wick moisture are extremely helpful.
  • Protect your head, feet and hands — Use sock liners, a hat, neck gaiter and gloves to help ward off the chill.
  • Gear up — Invest in a comfortable shoulder bag or backpack to carry extra cold weather gear so you can adapt to changing weather conditions.

Biking and walking are great ways to beat the winter blues and get some much needed sunshine. Being active outside during winter is all about dressing in layers. Once your body gets moving, you’ll be nice and warm!

Eric Rogers
BikeWalkKC, Executive Director and Co-founder

Thanks to our friends at BikeWalkKC for sharing pictures of active winter commuters!

Pollutants and warm temperatures contribute to active ozone season

Locally produced pollutants, warm temperatures and drought from late-May to mid-July contributed to high concentrations of ground-level ozone in the Kansas City region during the 2018 ozone season. Fortunately, the dry conditions began to improve in August and ozone levels remained at a lower concentration from mid-August until the end of ozone season.

Each ozone season (March 1–Oct. 31), MARC issues a daily SkyCast — an ozone pollution forecast that corresponds with the Air Quality Index (AQI), an information tool that associates colors and health messages with ranges of air pollution concentration. When higher ozone levels are expected, residents are encouraged to take actions that help reduce emissions, like carpooling to work and postponing mowing. During the 2018 ozone season, ozone monitors showed 12 exceedances of the federal health-based standard for ground-level ozone set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Despite these exceedances, the region is still considered to be “in attainment” — for now — because EPA uses a rolling three-year average to determine whether a region is in compliance with the standard. Once the 2018 monitor readings are validated, they will be averaged with values from 2017 and 2016 (creating a design value) to officially evaluate whether Kansas City still meets the standard. Based on preliminary data, this appears to be the fifth consecutive year in which the region has met the ozone standard.

As shown in the chart above, EPA has lowered the level of ozone concentration considered to be unhealthy twice in recent years — from 85 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb in 2008, and to 70 ppb in 2016. EPA sets the standard based on scientific review of the health impacts of ozone. The overall trend for ozone pollution levels in the Kansas City region has also declined, due in part to voluntary actions by businesses and residents, with a little help from Mother Nature in the form of an occasional mild summer. It is vital to public health for local governments, businesses and residents in the Kansas City region to continue to employ voluntary strategies to reduce ozone-forming and greenhouse gas emissions, as outlined in the region’s Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP). Our region’s participation in the Ozone Advance program also helps guide local efforts to reduce ozone pollution. Ultimately, our success depends on everyone’s willingness to help take care of our air.