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Overland Park City Council approves traffic signal removals despite pushback over safety concerns

Overland Park resident petitions to fight change
91st Street and Glenwood Street in Overland Park crash
Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 23:56:20-05

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — UPDATE: March 1, 10:30 p.m. | Overland Park City Council voted 10-2 to approve the removal of traffic signals at the intersections of West 91st and Glenwood streets as well as 91st Street and Lamar Avenue.

Earlier | Safety concerns after the removal of traffic signals at two nearby intersections are prompting Overland Park residents to push back.

Stoplights had been in place for about 30 years until October 2020 at the intersection of West 91st and Glenwood streets. That's when the city of Overland Park began a study to see how well the intersection would do without the traffic signals.

Initially, the city installed flashing red lights for north and southbound traffic on Glenwood Street and flashing yellow lights for traffic traveling along 91st Street.

Then, the study area was modified to include stop signs for north and southbound traffic on Glenwood with no traffic-control signs or devices for east and westbound traffic on 91st Street.

There have been six crashes, including three injury wrecks, at the intersection since the study began.

"With half of those being injury crashes with people transported to the hospital, myself and other residents are very concerned," Donna Palatas said.

Palatas lives near the intersection and was so concerned about the changes there and at the nearby intersection of West 91st Street and Lamar Avenue that she started an online petition, which has been signed by 270 people as of March 1.

She also took a picture of one of the crashes Jan. 5 in the 9100 block of Glenwood Street.

"The residents I spoke to said of course their main concern is safety," Palatas said.

A city staff report explains that the main reason for ditching the stoplights at 91st and Glenwood as well as 91st and Lamar was a lack of traffic.

Overland Park City Engineer Brian Shields has recommended keeping traffic as it is now with four stop signs replacing the flashing red lights at 91st and Lamar. He also noted there were crashes before the study at those intersections with full traffic signals.

Shields said snow and ice was a factor in the most recent crash at 91st and Glenwood, which took place in early February, so it could have happened regardless of any traffic-control signs or devices.

Furthermore, the study found the changes reduced time spent at the intersections for all traffic by just under 4 seconds, according to city officials.

That wasn't the case universally, though. Drivers traveling north and southbound traffic on Glenwood spent 10 seconds longer at the 91st and Glenwood intersection than before the changes.

But Palatas is concerned that with increased development in the area, including a walking trail planned for just north of 91st Street, the traffic signal changes will make it more dangerous for pedestrians.

Bethany School Principal Sharon Fries also discussed her concerns about the changes at 91st and Lamar in an email to Palatas.

“In terms of kids walking to school, we do have a few that do that," Fries said in her email. "But right now, none of them come through that intersection. We do cross the street there at times during school — PE classes, for example — and our track team practices begin this week, so we'll have about 35 kids crossing back and forth after school a couple of days a week. Stoplights are better for crossing, but we'll also work with the kids on how to do this safely with stop signs if needed."

Shields told the I-Team any changes “aren’t etched in stone” and traffic signals could be reinstalled, if it is deemed appropriate at some point.

"With safety being such a large concern, we should not wait for additional crashes," Palatas said.

The Overland Park City Council will discuss the topic at its Monday meeting after the Public Works Committee decided to adopt the staff-recommended intersection changes at a meeting last week.

Only Councilmen Faris Farassati and Scott Hamblin have publicly opposed the staff-recommended changes at the intersections.

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