51st and Troost: Dangerous intersection for pedestrians and motorists alike

Kate Baxendale

Many students cross the intersection of 51st Street and Troost Avenue on their commutes to campus. This intersection consists of a two-way stop on 51st Street, where drivers must yield to cross-traffic on Troost.

With speed limits differentiating by 10 mph on these two streets — one is 35 mph and the other is 25 mph — a traffic light with a crosswalk would be a good safety measure. Hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians daily must fend for themselves as they attempt to cross Troost without being struck by a car. Cars and pedestrians on either side of Troost wait several minutes for a chance to cross the street.

One must be aggressive when crossing especially during rush hours, when motorists often exceed the speed limits. Students walking to class are sometimes late because of the extensive and unpredictable wait for traffic to pass on Troost.

A terrible accident involving a UMKC student and a motorcyclist turned fatal in May. The student’s vehicle was stopped at the stop sign on 51st    Street facing westward toward campus at the intersection. The student pulled into traffic when a young man driving a motorcycle heading southbound on Troost collided with the student’s vehicle on the passenger side. The biker was thrown from his motorcycle and died at the scene. The student’s car was totaled, but the driver did not suffer any life-threatening injuries. A white cross with flowers at the scene of the accident serves as a daily reminder of the tragedy.

This intersection is located in an area known as the Troost Corridor. Back in 2003, the local Southtown Council devised the Troost Corridor Action Plan. The purpose of this plan is to make improvements along the Troost Corridor: 47th to 75th streets, Bruce Watkins Drive to Brookside Boulevard. The plan consists of four development principles.

The third principle is entitled “Neighborhood Preservation and Enhancement.” This principle is to “continue neighborhood improvements, such as construction and maintenance of sidewalks, street trees, lighting, code enforcement and redevelopment initiatives that stabilize neighborhoods.”

The plan incorporates the installation of gateway crosswalks. Gateway crosswalks are described by the Troost Corridor Action Plan as follows: “They are envisioned to define the pedestrian crosswalk lane and provide a more ‘plaza-like’ image with enhanced materials in the intersection itself.” As a resident of the Troostwood neighborhood, I have seen some efforts to improve the area.

New sidewalks have replaced uneven ones desperately in need of repair at 51st Street and Virginia Avenue, and sidewalks are being replaced on Lydia Avenue as well. However, I have yet to see any improvements made to local intersections as outlined in the Troost Corridor Action Plan. Talk of gateway crosswalks appears to be just that — talk.

In March of this year, the Kansas City Big 5 Urban Neighborhood Initiative announced that the Troost Corridor would be the first of several improvement projects. The mission of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) is “to build strong, collaborative partnerships among neighborhood residents, the regional business sector, civic and community groups, governmental agencies, and the philanthropic community to work together to improve community health and safety, education and prosperity.”

This nonprofit organization has a governing board that includes representatives from UMKC, Rockhurst University and other local institutions. Since the Troost Corridor Action Plan seems to have faded into the background, hopefully the UNI and its collaborators will take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and longevity of the neighborhood just east of campus.

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