Project overhauls safety along Santa Fe Drive

City nears design completion for improvements to Iowa Avenue underpass

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A bike route and pedestrian underpass near the Overland Park Golf Course will provide what residents say are some much-needed safety improvements in the coming year as the city finalizes designs on the project.

The Department of Public Works held a public meeting last month for the Iowa Underpass project, which will not only make the sidewalk along Iowa Avenue accessible, but also will improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists using the D-18 bicycle route following Florida Avenue, which goes east-west along the north side of the golf course.

The improvements will widen sidewalks along Santa Fe Drive. There will be a buffer between the sidewalks and the street, providing cyclists and pedestrians with more safety from the street. Sidewalk plans then go along Santa Fe Drive to Iowa Avenue, where there are new design plans for crossing the major street. The stairs at the Iowa Avenue underpass will be removed to make the area accessible. There will also be improved lighting along the sidewalks.

JB Block, a local bicyclist who has been taking this route for the past 10 years, is excited for the change. He rides about 30 miles per day and this particular stretch of road is not an easy one to traverse, he said.

“It’s the worst part of my whole ride,” Block said. “Anybody who rides a bicycle would know what needs to be improved.”

Block, along with several other area residents, have been following the project since the city began doing outreach last year. The April 9 public meeting provided residents a look at designs, which are at 60 percent completion. The city expects to start the bid phase later this year, or early next year, with construction happening in 2020.

The project will cost approximately $5 million and was partially funded by the Denver Regional Council of Governments. The city is covering the rest of the cost.

Block also is excited about the proposed new pavement. Some of the asphalt along the D-18 route is dangerous to ride on. Other areas aren’t plowed in winter and are difficult to ride on, even on a bike with fat tires made for snow, Block said. The new sidewalks will have better drainage, according to the plans.

Block also pointed out that much of the Santa Fe Drive area doesn’t have sidewalks at all.

That is also a concern for Overland resident Helene Orr. For pedestrians, walking along and crossing Santa Fe can be dangerous with fast speeds and bad sidewalks.

Orr said she has talked to city officials during open house meetings about further safety improvements along Santa Fe, such as not allowing cars to turn right with a red light, or an area for pedestrians trying to cross the street.

The major street isolates the small neighborhood near the golf course from any amenities on the other side of Santa Fe.

“You still gotta cross Santa Fe,” Orr said. “We have no amenities over there. For us, this is huge.”

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