The Kansas City region’s vision of vibrant, green and connected centers and corridors is central to both the Creating Sustainable Places initiative and Transportation Outlook 2040, the region’s long-range transportation plan.
Planning Sustainable Places (PSP) is an initiative to provide communities with pre-development resources to advance sustainable projects in their corridors and centers. The first round of projects was funded in 2013, the second in 2015 and a third round was just awarded for 2017.
The Burlington Corridor Complete Street Design project received funding in 2015 and set out to produce plans to increase green elements and improve transit, pedestrian and bicycle facilities along the corridor in North Kansas City, Missouri. Sara Copeland, community development director for the city of North Kansas City, recently provided this project update:
Burlington Avenue is the front door to North Kansas City (NKC). More than 25,000 cars use Burlington every day, whether they are traveling to a destination here in NKC, heading south to reach downtown Kansas City, Missouri, or heading somewhere further north. Burlington is also a state highway (Route 9) and a major transit corridor.
Unfortunately, we have heard for too long that as a front door, Burlington lacks curb appeal. The medians and their trees are aging. Burlington lacks continuous sidewalks, and it is not pedestrian or bicycle friendly.
The city of North Kansas City was planning to explore median improvements to Burlington when MARC announced the call for projects for the 2015 Planning Sustainable Places program. Receiving PSP funds gave us an opportunity to take a broader approach to Burlington, to examine not just median improvements, but how investing in complete street improvements on Burlington could revitalize and refresh the corridor.
After months of community outreach and engagement, the plan for Burlington includes a new cycle track — a two-way bicycle path on the east side of Burlington that will connect to the bike path on the Heart of America bridge. Setting a standard traffic lane width allows additional space for sidewalks and amenities. The aging medians will be replaced with rain gardens to better handle stormwater.
Making these improvements will be a multi-year project. The first phase of improvements has been galvanized by the award of federal Surface Transportation Program funds — $3.8 million to support construction of the cycle track in 2020. We anticipate moving forward on surveying, engineering and construction documents in the spring of 2017.
Because we knew that some community members would have a hard time envisioning future improvements, a key part of this project was the creation of visual materials illustrating proposed improvements. These illustrations, especially a video demonstrating the difference between today’s Burlington and tomorrow’s improved corridor, have been instrumental in building support for this project. All of these materials are available on the North Kansas City Burlington Corridor Project website.