Wichita considering improvements to pedestrian safety in Old Town

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s no secret that Old Town is a growing neighborhood. More businesses, restaurants and bars have brought increased interest to the area.

With more people and heightened traffic, pedestrian safety has become a focus for the City of Wichita and nearby businesses alike.

“I’ve seen a lot of cars zoom through here. They even have the sign over there for walkers, but they just never stop,” said Melad Stephan, the owner of Sabor Latin Bar & Grille in Old Town. “It’d be great if they could bring people’s attention to that and have more crossing for the walkers and around Old Town. It will help a lot.”

The combination of more people and speeding cars is a problem the city already included in its Capital Improvement Program, but today, a design to solve the issue will be presented to the city council.

“People have to drive down there and they have to find places to park, but once they get there, it’s providing a better pedestrian environment,” said Gary Janzen, Wichita’s city engineer. “I think that’s what we’re probably focused on more than anything right now.”

The two main areas of concern include 2nd Street between St. Francis and Washington and 1st Street between Mead and Washington.

One of the solutions Janzen suggests is bumping the curb out at intersections to give people crossing more room to see and to better define street parking.

“On both 1st and 2nd streets, it will help identify the parking. It helps make everything more visual for both pedestrians and vehicles both by effectively narrowing things up at those intersections,” Janzen said. “People tend to drive a little slower when they feel they’re in a little bit tighter corridor. We don’t want them to feel unsafe but they will naturally, inherently drive slower. So we think that will slow traffic down.”

The city is also considering other areas of improvement such as lighting and aesthetic appeal in the area.

There are several plain, white walls where the elevated railroad tracks are that the city wants to have painted by an artist, along with the addition of benches and new landscaping, Janzen said.

As far as the timeline for these potential upgrades goes, Janzen stresses that this is still in the proposal stage.

“I’ll show council what we’re recommending, what the proposed cost would be, what the timeline we’re looking at is,” he said.

That timeline starts in the spring of 2018 and would likely wrap up in the fall of that year.

Right now, the estimated cost for the entire project is about $3.5. million, including construction on curbs and roads to slow traffic down, and benches, potential new lighting and murals for aesthetic appeal.

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