City of Merriam Leverages CARS Funding to Improve Major Arterial

Posted on Wednesday, April 21st, 2021 by
In Roadway, tagged in
transportation engineering

Every year, the City of Merriam, Kansas works to improve existing roadway conditions, reduce future maintenance costs, and create ADA compliant facilities as part of the CARS Program. In 2020, they wanted to improve pavement, curb, and sidewalk along a highly traveled segment of Johnson Drive. They also needed to update the crossing at the railroad tracks, streetlights, and traffic signals. Collaboration with BNSF, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), and another engineering firm were the keys to this project’s success.

Our work on Johnson Drive fell between the BNSF railroad tracks west of I-35 and the eastern city limit on Johnson Drive. The west side of the project was entirely commercial. However, the area east of Antioch was 100 percent residential. Each section had its own unique set of needs.

To maximize the City of Merriam’s budget, we used an economy of scale. We combined this project with another effort that was designed by a different engineering firm. Pulling them into a single plan set allowed the city to bid the projects together and lessen the impact to residents. It also streamlined railroad coordination.

This portion of Johnson Drive interacts with the railroad and KDOT ramps. Our designs had to tie into the existing highway, while keeping any changes to the ramps to a minimum. Our work with the railroad required extensive coordination as well. In fact, the existing conditions required the tracks be raised approximately 2 inches to create a smooth transition with the newly paved road surface. To keep things moving forward, we started early in our coordination efforts with BNSF. This helped us time construction efforts to fall during a BNSF track window of two days. Railroad maintenance happened alongside road improvements. This allowed us to minimize closure time and reduce the inconvenience to residents.


Improving walkability in the area was also important to the city. We were tasked with replacing portions of the sidewalk west of Antioch and all sidewalks east of Antioch. Previously 4-feet wide, the new sidewalk is 5-feet in width, supporting ADA compliance. Updated streetlights also help to support a safe environment for pedestrians.

On the residential portion of the project, some driveways emptied out directly onto Johnson Drive. Many of the driveways were fairly steep with only one access point. These had to be rebuilt, so they would integrate seamlessly with the new sidewalks. To avoid unnecessarily inconveniencing the residents, we worked with the city to write the specifications to minimize the closure time for the driveways.

In addition to the driveways, the city wanted to minimize other impacts to the properties along Johnson Drive, as well as improve the aesthetics along the project. Our team was tasked with preserving a historic stone wall that runs along a portion of the south side of the project. To do this, we coordinated closely with the city, homeowner, and contractor, modifying our designs to keep it in place. We also boosted the area’s appeal by providing landscaping plans for one of the medians on Johnson Drive.

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