By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A design proposal that would convert much of 20th Street into two lanes instead of four from Main Street to Campbell Parkway to make room for streetscape and green features did not draw much public support on Tuesday.
Residents who attended a Green/Complete Streets planning session at Harmony Heights Baptist Church did indicate support for trolley stops, bike lanes, trail connections, and some green features such as pavement that allows for water drainage and tree plantings beside the street or sidewalks.
Todd Davis, of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 7 office, told the residents in an introduction to the project that the EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency each provided $50,000 to create a design proposal for remaking two miles of 20th Street into a pedestrian-friendly area where people can walk or ride bikes and not have to drive cars.
David Doyle, sustainable communities coordinator with the EPA office, said the concept of Green/Complete Streets was generally created to address urban sprawl. “As we spread out, we have to drive more, and that has created air quality issues and greenhouse gas emissions that has led to changes in the environment,” he said. He said smaller streets will reduce traffic, and building sidewalks, trails and bike lanes provides exercise opportunities that reduce health problems. Narrowing driving lanes slows speeds to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, he said.
Renderings of five sections of 20th Street depict possible designs, starting with tree-lined medians and sidewalks on Highview Avenue as a buffer to Range Line Road. A traffic roundabout is proposed at 20th Street and Murphy Boulevard. Then the two-lane design with center turn lanes is proposed west to Main Street.
Residents are being asked to decide whether they think 20th Street should remain an arterial corridor capable of carrying a high volume of traffic or a reduced traffic corridor that incorporates streetscaping, plant strips, rain gardens, bioswales for stormwater drainage and other green components.
“All we’re doing is gathering feedback,” said City Planner Troy Bolander. After residents decide what they like or don’t like, the design will be altered and submitted to the City Council, which eventually will decide whether to fund the plan design.
Resident Joe Tichota, a former city councilman, asked about how maintenance will be paid for on the proposed recovery projects, such as the 20th Street redesign, with new tax revenues limited because of the tax increment financing district in place. He, and other residents, questioned whether decreasing traffic flow is advisable on a street where the new Joplin High School, a new Joplin Public Library and movie theater, and a shopping district are planned.
Another resident asked how much easement would be taken to make room for the new plan. City officials said little new land would be acquired except at Murphy Boulevard for the roundabout.
Residents were asked to visit each of the five designs, and vote on what they liked with green dots and what they didn’t with red dots.
At the end the session, residents had placed more votes in the category of keeping the street four lanes rather than reducing it to two. Voting on the roundabout proposal was mixed with no clear preference.
Davis, the long-term recovery coordinator for Joplin from the EPA, said the design does not have to be used on 20th Street. It could be used, or parts of it incorporated, in other street projects or locations such as Main Street.
Doyle, asked what other cities have built such projects, said Chicago, Ill., has built several, and smaller cities such as Greensburg, Kan., and Iowa City, Iowa, have used the designs for redevelopment after disasters.
“They’re around, but they’re still relatively rare, especially in this part of the country,” Doyle said.
No cost estimate was given for a design as proposed.
Another public input session will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the basement of City Hall, 602 S. Main St.
THE DESIGN PROPOSAL and the results of the two public input sessions may be viewed and discussed from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday in front of City Hall during the Third Thursday event.