Nieman Road improvements open house draws optimistic crowd
As potential improvements to the Nieman Road corridor are revealed, many residents are excited about a possible revival for an overlooked corridor of Shawnee’s historic downtown.
On Tuesday evening, consultants held an open house at Shawnee Town 1929 Town Hall to discuss the Nieman Road Reallocation of Right of Way project, which the city hopes will ease traffic and make the area more pedestrian-friendly.
The consultant team — which consists of staff from BHC Rhodes, McCurdy Engineers and RDG Planning and Design — showcased three options for street improvements between Shawnee Mission Parkway and 55th Street.
The most beneficial option, they agreed, would take Nieman Road down to two lanes of traffic and add a middle turn lane, and it would also feature a 10-foot multi-use side path.
The side path would be separated from the street by an 8- to 10-foot parkway setback.
This solution, while it would offer the most significant pedestrian improvement, would also be the most expensive one, however.
Another option, consultants pointed out, would also take Nieman Road down to a three-lane section, but provide a shoulder or bike lane instead. It would be the least expensive solution.
And for the third option, limited improvements would keep Nieman Road four lanes, but create aligned left turn lanes at Johnson Drive. It would also widen the sidewalk on the Dodge City Beef block.
Additional amenities for either option could include streetscape and lighting improvements, pedestrian crossing medians and historic features, such as structures featuring Shawnee founders or quotes, for example.
Other ideas included cleaning up extra entrances to businesses along Nieman Road and better lining up entrances where feasible.
Consultants stated that as a three-lane roadway, Nieman Road will still be able to handle its usual traffic, as well as future traffic, should there be redevelopment along the corridor.
Several residents at the open house were pleased with the three main options presented, especially the bike lane or multi-use path ones.
Matt Parker, who lives near downtown Shawnee, said he often rides his bicycle in the area, toting his 2-year-old son in an attached wagon.
“I absolutely do not ride down Nieman with my son, because it is way too dangerous,” he said. “Right now, we ride through neighborhood side streets to get places.”
With the multi-use path, Parker said he would feel safe riding with his son to fun places downtown, such as Splash Cove and Wonderscope Children's Museum.
He also thinks making the area more pedestrian-friendly could revitalize downtown.
“These improvements could attract new business, which I think is really exciting,” he said. “If our downtown becomes more attractive to pedestrians, developers will take notice.”
Another Shawnee resident, Greg Green, agreed that Nieman Road needs improvements for safety reasons and to ease traffic.
He thinks a middle turn lane on Nieman Road would make a huge difference to drivers and having a bike lane as a buffer would help pedestrians feel more at ease on the sidewalk.
“Right now, the sidewalks are right at the edge of the street, and it is uncomfortable,” he said. “You get pretty nervous just walking down the street.”
For Amanda Souder, the improvements will cause a direct impact on her life, as she lives on Nieman Road near 56th Street.
She is hopeful the city council will authorize improvements because she feels revitalization for downtown Shawnee is of utmost importance.
“The older part of town has been kind of forgotten,” she said. “Some properties in the area are getting run down and there are a lot of rentals. Shawnee is a great city, but I feel like most of the focus has been out west.”
Alan Martin, a dentist at Martin Family Dentistry, agrees.
His business, located at 6130 Nieman Road, has been in Shawnee for more than 50 years. His family has been in Shawnee for more than 80 years.
“When your heart stops, you die, and our downtown is the heart and core of the city,” Martin said. “Numerous businesses have invested time and money into the area, and it’s about time the city does, too. Attention to this area is long overdue.”
Project manager Randy Gorton, of BHC, was pleased by the enthusiasm of the dozens of residents who showed up for the open house.
“Downtown Shawnee has a lot of potential,” he said. “Many people remember back when Nieman was a vibrant corridor. There is an opportunity to renew that energy and make this area a destination for the community again.”
He thinks the city council has a tough decision to make when it comes to the three options.
“The city has a great opportunity to either make a big positive change or let it continue to go in the direction it has been going,” he said.
The city has a survey on its website for residents to offer their concerns or opinions regarding the project.
Next steps for the project include consultants completing field check plans for re-striping and putting together a final report for the council to review at a later meeting.
For more information about the project, visit the city's website.