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Artwork in Northeast Kansas City aims to improve pedestrian safety

12th and Benton Improvements
Posted at 9:46 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-11 23:15:39-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This week, city leaders passed a resolution so Kansas City, Missouri, could apply for a federal grant that would help reduce traffic deaths down to zero by 2030 as part of the city's Vision Zero plan.

At the same time, there are some colorful changes underway at a busy intersection in Northeast Kansas City where in 2018, there were more than a dozen crashes.

Residents can now appreciate some art behind the wheel at Benton Boulevard and east 12th Street.

"I wanted to show that our music, dancing and food, bring our community together and it livens our city," Yarana Ally French, one of the artist commissioned for the project, said.

Her mural is part of the improvements coming to the intersection to make it safer for people who walk in the neighborhood.

"We found with KC's historic grid, it is actually really amenable to pedestrians," DuRon Netsell, founder of Street Smarts Design+ Build, said. "We've just prioritized automobiles for so long now, but it's actually quite easy to reclaim this space for pedestrians."

Currently, the intersection is now a four-way stop.

The extended curbs make cars take turns slower and shorten the pedestrian crossing.

And if for some reason they can't make it across in one shot, they can wait at one of two islands in the median.

KSHB 41 News asked Nutsell how long she think it will take for drivers to notice the new additions.

"Yeah, you know, we can only do so much with human behavior. The design certainly encourages safer behaviors," she said.

It's much needed for business owners around the intersection like Maria Gonzales, who has seen the wrecks or heard the near-misses.

She told KSHB 41 News she's hopeful the changes will make a difference. They already have in another part of Kansas City.

On Westport Road and Wyandotte Street, the project has made a difference, according to the owner of Pryde’s.

The owners told KSHB 41 News over the phone that cars would speed through the intersection before crosswalks and stop signs went up. It is now much safer for customers.

"It's just there's a lot going on all at once. And I think with the artwork when you kind of look at it, it catches your attention and kind of leads your eye across the street and helps you look forward to see what's going on," Brigid Elbert, a Westport resident, said.

The neighborhood has secured funding to make the artwork and safety improvements permanent.

"It's just a great way to kind of casually like point out that you know people are walking, and people are enjoying things. People are enjoying Kansas City and this is the spirit of Kansas City," Elbert said.

Officials say that intersection in Westport saw traffic speed go down by 45%.

The work at 12th and Benton is expected to be complete by early next week.

The project is funded through a $25,000 grant the city received from Bloomberg Philanthropies.