OLATHE, Kan. — As Johnson County leaders continue to debate how to best manage truck traffic on rural roads, people that live in the unincorporated part of the county say the traffic is putting their safety at risk.
During the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting Thursday, Public Works Director Brian Pietig provided an update on plans for 199th Street.
Pietig said the county will begin making some improvements on 199th Street between Clare Road and U.S. 169 Highway next spring, but larger upgrades will likely be needed as the area becomes more developed.
“CARNP (Comprehensive Arterial Road Network Plan) has designated 199th Street as a Type 3 aerial [road]. That’s the highest designation, 150-200 feet of right-of-way with four to six lanes [of traffic] in the future,” Pietig said. “I don’t see the county putting those types of improvements in. Those usually happen when the city annexes and the developments come that warrant those types of improvements.”
Only a portion of 199th Street falls within the county’s jurisdiction. Pietig said approximately three miles of the road was annexed into the City of Gardner a few years ago. Other segments of the rural roadway falls under the authority of cities like Spring Hill and Edgerton. Once property has been annexed into a city boundary, that city becomes responsible for the infrastructure.
Pietig said CARNP discourages commercial truck drivers from using county roads to cut through traffic to gain access to state highways, but that doesn’t apply to local deliveries.
“A truck that jumps off I-35 and travels up the west side of the county to gain access to K-10 using the local road system, that’s what we are trying to prevent,” Pietig said. “Truck traffic that originates or has a destination in the county necessarily has to use the local road system, either to gain access to another area in the county or to gain access to the state system.”
Frank Moley lives in the unincorporated portion of the county and has reached out to the board multiple times about his concerns with truck traffic in the area. Earlier this week Moley launched a petition to draw attention to traffic issues along 199th. He said the board has largely ignored residents concerns about the semi truck traffic.
“We are done being patient, as you called it last week, while our family and friends risk their lives by your inaction. The truck drivers admit they are using 199th as a shortcut publicly,” Moley said.
Mike Duffield also lives in the rural portion of the county.
“The residents have repeatedly requested this board to limit the southwest Johnson County unsafe truck traffic. The county’s answer, evidently, is to give us a four to six lane highway with even more trucks. This whole issue was initially about safety. I don’t see how injecting more trucks will make us safer,”Duffield
Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara said residents who live on other rural roads like 207th Street, 191th Street and Edgerton Road face a similar problem with truck traffic. O’Hara said she would support banning trucks from using the rural roads until more safety improvements can be made.
“Until these roads are developed to the level that they can safely have truck traffic on them, they should not be there. We are actually allowing this. This is an extremely dangerous situation,” O’Hara said.
Commissioner Janeé Hanzlick expressed concerns that if truck drivers are unable to use 199th Street, they will be diverted to other rural roads.
“Say tomorrow we put up signs on 199th ‘no truck traffic’. That truck traffic is going to go somewhere else and we have to be prepared for that,” Hanzlick said.
Commissioner Shirley Allenbrand said county staff are working with representatives from surrounding cities to discuss ways to handle truck traffic and public safety.
“We can’t just knee-jerk putting ‘no’ signs up without everybody working together, because it’s going to create more chaos and somebody will get killed,” Allenbrand said. “You can’t create more chaos. That’s what we are trying to do, is fix the whole problem working with all the entities together.”
Commissioner Michael Ashcraft questioned if reducing speed limits could be used as a short-term solution for truck traffic issues. In June, the BOCC voted to increase speed limits on more than a dozen segments of roadways throughout the rural part of the county.
Sheriff Calvin Hayden said he doesn’t feel reducing the speed limits would help, because there isn’t enough space on the shoulder of rural roadways for deputies to safely make a traffic stop.
“We have had fatalities on 207th and truck fatalities where they go off the side of the road. We’ve worked a couple of them and it’s tragic,” Hayden said.
No formal action was taken by the board on Thursday. County staff plan to provide another update on traffic along 199th to the board during a committee of the whole meeting later this fall.