City growth prompts traffic, safety concerns
One of De Soto's newest streets is becoming one of its busiest.
Before the opening of the new De Soto High School five years ago, 91st Street was an access lane to the Plaza. Traffic increased with the opening of Starside Elementary two years ago and the completion of De Soto School District's new administration building earlier this year.
Construction has started on a Sonic Drive-In north of the Plaza with a planned July opening. Another developer is looking to locate a Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken to the north of Sonic.
But the first stirrings of the next big impact on the street can be seen past the street's present terminus near Starside. Construction crews are already moving dirt on Intervet Inc.'s $37 million research, production and distribution campus.
City Engineer Mike Brungardt said he would ask the city council Thursday for the authority to seek bids to extend 91st Street 292 feet to the west. The project would extend the street to the 34-acre Intervet campus and be paid for from the $198,000 in excise taxes the company will pay the city.
Heavy traffic on a street that serves both De Soto High School and Starside Elementary is a concern.
At the suggestion of Intervet, its construction contractor, Titan Construction, met with school district officials before construction got underway. Superintendent Marilyn Layman said district officials and Titan representatives discussed ways to assure the safety of students during the construction of the Intervet campus.
As a result of the meeting, the city agreed to add more speed-limit signs to the north and south sides of 91st Street and the Johnson County Sheriff's Department will increase its patrols, Layman said.
Titan volunteered to control truck traffic leaving the construction site to the present 91st Street with a flagman, Layman said. Titan site construction manager Dennis Long indicated the company would stress the importance of driving safely to its workers, she added.
"He said anyone working on the project getting a ticket on 91st Street will be removed from the job site," she said.
The Titan representatives said 125 employees would be working at the site during the construction of the campus, Layman said. Delivery trucks should be at the site for unloading before school starts, but concrete and dump trucks will need access to the site all day, she said.
Intervet has said 170 employees will work at the campus and 35 to 40 trucks a day will be used.
It is Intervet's company policy not to grant interviews to the press. Brungardt said the city has also found the company tight-lipped concerning its construction schedule.
The only indication of a completion date is the requirement that the city provide the campus with 30 million gallons of water annually starting in March 2003, Brungardt said.
Soon after that date, a traffic light will likely regulate traffic at the intersection of 91st Street and Lexington Avenue. Brungardt said the Kansas Department of Transportation is conducting a traffic study of the Lexington Avenue corridor from 91st Street south to Kansas Highway 10.
The KDOT study includes a review of the feasibility of placing stoplights on Lexington Avenue at Commerce Drive and 91st Street. Brungardt said he would recommend the city contribute funds to the study to expand its scope.
When finished, the KDOT study will make recommendations on the traffic lights, lane modifications to the streets and intersections and pedestrian access along the corridor, Brungardt said. The city engineer has already suggested $75,000 in the city's excise tax be used to purchase the traffic light.