Does city need stronger provisions for pedestrians during road construction?

Construction at Cleaver and Troost, which has closed access to sidewalks on all four corners for several moths, has led some pedestrian advocates to wonder whether the city needs stronger regulations on alternative walking routes during big projects.

Many people in Midtown Kansas City have become increasingly interested in pedestrian issues, and that’s led to a lot of discussion lately about what happens to walkability when big construction projects are going on.

One case in point that has been getting a lot of attention from transportation advocates is the current situation at the corner of Cleaver and Troost.

The problem, they say, is that construction in that area which began months ago has closed sidewalks on all four corners, so there is no place for pedestrians, disabled people or people going to and from the bus, to walk.

Eric Bunch, a resident of Old Hyde Park and director of education at BikeWalkKC, says the city needs to think about how such projects affect pedestrians.

“When construction is happening, the city needs to think about all forms of transportation and not just cars.”

He first complained to the city about the problem at the beginning of August, and at the end of the month, he got a reply.

“Our contractor has installed signs in the project excavation area to notify pedestrians that the sidewalk is closed.”

But Bunch didn’t think telling people the sidewalks were closed really solved the problem. He points out that people walking or getting off the bus at the Cleaver stop are required to walk in the street no matter which direction they are going.

In emails and on Twitter, a discussion has been taking place about exactly what the laws are and whether they are being enforced.

Meg Conger is the city’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance manager. She says the ADA does not say sidewalks on both sides of a street cannot be closed. The city looks to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for guidance, and it states a contractor must provide an alternative route of travel if both sides of the street are closed.

In this case, the detour during construction is Volker Boulevard. Conger says in this particular case, there are not adequate east-west arterials to provide people with a convenient alternative route.

However, she says, once the project is completed, the area will be more walkable for everyone, including disabled folks.

“For a reasonably short-term period we are putting people out. But we will have better curbs, sidewalks and curb ramps that will benefit everyone” as the project gets finished.

She adds that there will be an east-west route available in about two weeks, making pedestrian access easier.

Bunch says the streetscape project along Cleaver will be great when its completed, but thinks as the city starts to see more redevelopment and construction, perhaps it needs to have a better policy for ensuring pedestrians will be able to get around safely.

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