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How Zone Blitz Construction Projects Are Tackling Travel Concerns

It’s nearing rush hour around dusk as I walk with Mary Kay Glunt. She’s not only the secretary of the Doling Neighborhood Association, but as she reminds me with a smile—also a neighbor.  We walk around the corner of Fort and Talmage—the area known as the Talmage Dip, just one of the many infrastructure improvement projects underway as part of the Zone Blitz.  

Corner of Fort and Talmage
Credit Theresa Bettmann / KSMU

“This part was widened a little bit years ago, but that part [pointing to the Talmage Dip] was never widened.  And part of the problem was that there is a creek that goes through there and that’s part of a waterways so we had to get state approval to be able to do all of that.  The city had to get the state involved to do all of that.  The other problem is there is no sidewalk--there or on Livingston--so anyone walking down to Kearney was in danger,” shares Glunt.

We continue along the detour route of Livingston which residents are driving while Talmage is closed for construction.  Glunt shares that her and neighbors are concerned with how fast people often drive through this area, and hopes drivers will slow down once the road is widened.

“A lot of people were happy it’s happening, especially people who walk or see people walking up and down here.  The neighbors I have talked to in the past were always concerned that someone was going to get hurt,” explains Glunt.

Mike Pilkington lives at the top of the hill currently closed at Talmage and Fort.  He’s happy about the work being done.

Credit Theresa Bettmann / KSMU
Talmage Dip Construction between Fort and Kansas Expressway

“As soon as all of this is done it’s going to be good.  They’ve got the sidewalk going in, the curb going in, it’s going to be a lot better, a lot more space.  If they go ahead and throw the speed bumps in there, we’re good,” expresses Pilkington.

Kirk Juranas, assistant director with Springfield Public Works, says the storm water and sidewalk improvements on Talmage between Fort and Kansas Expressway cost around $100,000.  Construction for the Talmage Dip project began in the fall, with completion expected within the 18 month window referred to as the Zone Blitz which began in July 2016.  

“We’ve already started that work—it’s closed right now as we speak.  The new box culvert is in place and we’re building the wing walls.  We’re going to put in a nice sidewalk that I think everyone will appreciate,” shares Juranas

This is one of the larger category 1 projects to be completed that addresses sidewalk and other roadway issues as voted by Zone 1 citizens. According to Juranas, category 2 projects are those that were planned before the Blitz but will be completed during the initiative.

“The Talmage Dip that was a project we heard a lot about as we talked with the folks of Zone 1.  That’s north of Kearney and east of Kansas Expressway.  It’s an area where there’s a drainage structure and somewhat of a hill where people have to walk on the grassy areas,” Juranas explains.

Dan Smith, director of Public Works, explains the category developments resulted from a series of community listening meetings earlier this year.

“We took the input from the listening sessions and compared it to a needs list we have been developing over a period of years based on citizens calling in.  So it helps you really get a good sense of where the greatest needs are,” Smith says.

Smith says safely getting to work, the store or even a park was the request of residents through improved sidewalks and roadways.

Once this data was compiled, a feasibility study was conducted.  Deep ditches or not enough room for sidewalks prevented sidewalk improvements in certain areas.

“The first thing we did actually was with our maintenance forces we went out and started looking at those areas where there were sidewalks that had repair issues.  We started to focus on repairs to sidewalks in Zone 1, pavement repairs, etc.,” says Smith.

The second step, explains Smith, was to locate and secure funding for identified projects.  A majority of the investment comes from the city’s quarter and eighth-cent sales taxes.  He says many of the listed projects include partnerships with MoDOT, Greene County and City Utilities, depending upon the location. 

According to Smith, sidewalk projects alone in Zone 1 have cost just over $600,000.  That includes two parking lot improvements at Nichols Park and Tom Watkins Park.

Glunt says she and her neighbors are glad to see the progress.

“It’ll be a good thing and you know everything cascades,” shares Glunt as she talks about hopes that these Zone Blitz improvements will continue to spark positive changes to her neighborhood community.  She says she has lived here for over 26 years and shares the sentiment with many of her neighbors that this is a good place to live and plans   to continue to call home.   

Theresa received her undergraduate degree in sociology at Missouri State University, as well as her Master's degree in Social Work at MSU. Theresa enjoys writing, drawing, reading, music, working with animals, and most of all spending time with her family. She wishes to continue to use her experiences, combined with her pursuit of education, to foster a sense of empowerment and social awareness in the community. Theresa loves working with KSMU and attributes her passion for NPR, and love of learning, to her father.