Don't settle for mediocrity on Bruce R. Watkins Drive
The Kansas City Star
Driving the speed limit on Bruce R. Watkins Drive has two advantages.
First, it pretty much eliminates the chance of getting a ticket on one of the Kansas City area’s best-known speed traps.
Second, it helps drivers get more enjoyment out of the lush landscaping — the maturing trees, shrubs and flower beds — and other enhancements such as better-looking bridges and streetlights that dominate the 10-mile stretch of road between downtown and southeast Kansas City.
Unfortunately, the investments made by Kansas City and state of Missouri taxpayers in this attractive roadway haven’t always worked out as planned.
As of late last week, dozens of dead trees along the highway still needed to be removed and replaced. But there’s no money this year to do the replanting, according to Forest Decker, Kansas City’s superintendent of parks.
In addition, hundreds of bushes have died in the median wells between the lanes of traffic, creating an unsightly view for motorists. Again, there are no plans to replace them this year. That’s a shame, because other shrubs — including hardy Sea Green Junipers — are flourishing in the median wells and more of them could be planted there.
In these tough economic times, the city and state aren’t setting aside enough funds to maintain the road to the high standards established about a dozen years ago after court challenges resulted in a plan to spend $24 million on the improved bridges, irrigation systems, special traffic poles and landscaping. At the time, it was reportedly the nation’s largest urban landscaping project.
The agreements put in place in the 1990s were done to benefit not just motorists but the thousands of residents who lived along the roadway and whose neighborhoods had been rent asunder by the massive project.
On a more positive note, the hundreds of trees that have survived over the years are getting taller and better looking. Soon, thousands of daylilies planted on both sides of Watkins Drive will begin showing off their colorful annual blooms.
It’s also encouraging that the city and state still share costs to pay for regular mowings and for periodic collections of the trash that gets caught in the landscaping and nearby fences.
The high level of maintenance required to keep Bruce R. Watkins Drive looking sharp should not be allowed to slip. The Kansas City area already has plenty of mediocre-looking roadways.