By Max Goodwin
Potholes and cracked streets will soon give way to orange traffic cones and road closures in south Kansas City.
This week, street milling began on Wornall Rd from Gregory to 63rd St and on Bannister Rd. from Raytown Rd to 350 Hwy. (A weekly schedule of street repair in your area can be found here.) In July, roadwork is scheduled to begin on Red Bridge Rd between Wornall and Holmes once all storm sewer work is completed.
Last year the City Council decided to take on street maintenance as a key issue, devoting more than twice as much money to the problem by increasing the previous year’s allocation for street preservation from $17 million to $39 million.
The distribution of those funds is just in the beginning stages. Public works director Michael Shaw said about half of the road maintenance scheduled for the last budget is now hitting south Kansas City streets, with another contract for maintenance already in the works.
“There’s going to be construction all over south Kansas City with roads getting done,” Shaw said. “That’s good and it’s bad. The good part is roads are getting done. The bad part is it’s all getting done at the same time. So that’s going to create a lot of driver nightmares.”
“What we ask for you to do is just be patient with us. We have a lot of work to do but we’re here to do the work,” Shaw said.
The plan for this year is to resurface 300 miles of roads around the city, including 50 miles in each council district. There are a total of 6,500 miles of roads that the KC Public Works Department is charged with maintaining.
“Infrastructure helps create value for our city. It says, ‘this is what we’re worth’,” Shaw said. “So we have to be very intentional about what we repair and when we repair it.”
This is essentially what at least one south Kansas Citian has been asking city officials to do for years.
Frank Sereno hit a pothole in his Waldo neighborhood while riding his motorcycle a decade ago and has been on a mission to get the city to dedicate more tax dollars for fixing its decaying streets ever since.
Sereno has been creative about drawing attention to the problem — from taking part in a peaceful protest at 75th and Wornall to celebrating a birthday for a pothole. The whole time he’s been amazed at the lack of responses he has received from his many 311 requests concerning potholes. He gathered 2,700 online signatures from his neighbors around Waldo and delivered them to Mayor Quinton Lucas and Sixth District Councilmember Kevin McManus.
“The goal is strictly to get the streets repaved,” Sereno said. But he wants to see the work done before he can believe the budget increase will make a difference.
Shaw said a lack of funding is not the only reason road conditions have deteriorated. He noted there’s also been a lack of communication between city departments and utility companies, citing examples from previous years of freshly paved streets being cut into during utility work.
A few weeks ago a city maintenance crew prepared to repave a street near Bent Tree Park in southeast Kansas City when Shaw received a call that the same street was scheduled for a gas main installation.
“There was a whole lot of dialogue and discussion [after that]. Now it’s set up so the gas company (is) going to come in and do their work but then we’ll be able to repave the streets right after they get done,” Shaw said.
The city is hopeful that an improved effort towards communication will lead to smoother streets in Kansas City. In the meantime, residents like Frank Sereno will be dodging potholes while watching for progress.
The upcoming schedule of streets to be milled and paved is available on the city’s websiite.