The city of Independence is constantly looking for ways to improve traffic flow, and traffic accident trends reflect that changes have helped in the past decade. 

The city of Independence is constantly looking for ways to improve traffic flow, and traffic accident trends reflect that changes have helped in the past decade.  

Traffic fatalities dropped in half from 2000 to 2010 with eight fatalities last year in Independence compared to 17 in 2000. The city also experienced a 25 percent reduction in traffic accidents in 10 years, with 3,560 accidents in 2000 compared to 2,682 in 2010.

“That indicates that we’ve been making good improvement on making our roads safer to travel, and we’re looking forward to continuing with that trend,” John Powell, the city’s director of public works, told the Independence City Council Monday night.  

Powell said his presentation served as an introduction to what the city’s traffic system consists of, and at future meetings he’ll discuss ways in which the system could improve.

Intersections continue to have the largest effect on travel time, Powell said, and traffic signals are relied upon to handle high traffic volumes in both directions at intersections. Stop signs, however, remain the most common form of intersection controls in Independence, Powell said.

At the intersection of 35th Street and Noland Road, a camera detects when vehicles are stopped at the intersection and need to pass through it. Mayor Don Reimal said this camera should not be confused with a red light traffic camera system similar to those in Kansas City and Sugar Creek.

“We do not have red light cameras in Independence,” Powell said. “These do not run a tape that is viewed or registered. This sends a signal to the controller cabinet that a green light is needed for that particular lane where it sees a car. That’s the only use of it.”

Powell said the city still uses a mix of both the cameras and in-ground sensors for vehicles stopped at intersections.

“We are trying to move more toward the cameras,” Powell said. “The induction loops that go in the pavement don’t register motorcycles very well, and they don’t always work if there is snow on the ground. They also tend to break when utilities or maintenance work is being done at that location.”

New wireless communication devices, such as the one at Little Blue Parkway and Valley View Parkway, send signals to the next traffic signal down instead of installing a cable connecting the two, Powell said. Reimal asked if inclement weather affects the devices similar to how it affects satellite dish networks.

“There doesn’t seem to be a widespread problem with that,” Powell said. “Those are generally being used in the Operation Green Light system, and there are quite a few of those in the metropolitan area. They seem to be weather-resistant....”

The existing system in Independence includes 560 miles of city streets, 100 miles of Missouri Department of Transportation streets and 26 miles of privately owned streets. The interstates and highways that pass through Independence and are part of MoDOT’s system include Interstate 70, I-470, U.S. 24 and 40 and Missouri highways 78 (also known as 23rd Street), 12 (also known as Truman Road), 291 and 7.

I-70 is the most heavily traveled road in Independence with more than 100,000 vehicles traveling on it daily, Powell said. He also explained the types of streets – arterial, collector and local – that compose the Independence system.   

Arterial streets: With 70 miles passing through Independence, these are the highest level of city-owned and maintained streets, Powell said. These streets are two, three or four lanes wide and can be divided with a raised island in the middle. Major arterial streets include Noland and Lee’s Summit roads and Sterling Avenue.
The city’s minor arterial streets include Salisbury Road and Crysler Avenue.  
  Collector streets: In Independence, these are mostly two-lane and may include turn lanes. Their purpose, Powell said, is to connect local streets onto arterial streets. Seventy miles of city-owned collector streets exist in Independence. Examples include the three-lane Hidden Valley Road and Swope Drive from Truman Drive to Missouri 78.
  Local streets: As the largest part of the city-owned street system, these two-lane streets provide access to residences and to businesses. Examples of the 420 miles of local streets in Independence include 37th Terrace Court South and Cliff Drive.  

Several city departments collaborate in the management of the street system, including Public Works, which performs plan review, construction inspection and street maintenance; the Police Department, which enforces traffic codes; Community Development, which oversees private development projects; and Independence Power & Light, which handles traffic signal maintenance.

“We appreciate the work that you guys do,” Reimal said. “I know that right now you’re probably inundated with potholes after this rough winter that we’ve had. I know there are several that I seem to keep hitting.”

“Yes, we are blessed with potholes at the moment,” Powell replied.