City discusses traffic light options at 51st and Oak with neighbors, UMKC

The traffic light just a half block from 51st and Oak is one the city says is not warranted under federal regulations. Traffic engineers last night met with UMKC and neighbors, who expressed concern for student safety if the traffic light is removed.

The city’s public works department is gathering input into the proposed removal of traffic lights across town. Last night, the city met with neighbors to discuss changes in the 4th council district, including one light at 51st and Oak Street slated for removal.

The meetings come after protests from both residents and the city council last year. City staff began preparing to remove traffic signals, saying they were not justified under federal regulations. But after a public outcry, the council told staff to slow down the process and get citizen input before removing the lights.

A meeting last night offered residents a chance to comment on proposed removals at six intersections: 51st and Oak; 59th and Wornall; 63th and State Line; Gregory and Main; Meyer and Main; and Meyer and Oak.

Public works department spokesman Sean Demory explained that the city uses the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as a guideline for installing and maintaining traffic signals. While that document does not show the need for 144 of the city’s 648 traffic lights, the city has various options for replacing the lights, including:

  • No traffic control
  • Yield signs
  • Two-way stop
  • Four-way stop
  • Overhead flashing beacons
  • Traffic signals

One of the lights the city says is not warranted under MUTCD is near 51st and Oak, in between the UMKC Administration Building and a university parking lot. (The light is currently mid-block, not exactly at the intersection of 51st and Oak). City traffic engineer Wei Sun said the intersection has been studied, and not enough people cross the street there to justify the light. But UMKC Associate Vice Chancellor Robert Simmons told the traffic planners the university has major concerns about the removal of the light.

Simmons asked the city to suspend action until its clear whether a Whole Foods store will be built at 51st and Oak. If the grocery moves forward, the city says a light at 51st and Oak, near the current light, would be warranted. If Whole Foods does not move forward, Simmons said the university would like to discuss other options for ensuring students can safely cross the street. Residents of the South Plaza neighborhood echoed concerns for student safety.

Residents also expressed concerns about traffic lights slated for removal at all of the remaining intersections. They pointed out areas where students cross streets to get to schools and asked that the city give equal weight to neighborhood quality of life and traffic flow.

“Wornall is not an expressway, its a neighborhood street,” Vangie Rich said.

Demory said five additional meetings have been scheduled around the city. His department will continue to study traffic counts and what options are available. He said the engineers would go out with residents to get their perspective on the issues removing lights could cause.

He said residents will be notified of scheduled changes by mail and through the city website.


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