Kansas City Council members agreed Thursday that the city's Public Works Department botched plans to replace more than three dozen traffic signals with stop signs.
Council members said the city department failed to publicly explain the plans to taxpayers and made the changes without notice. This left the city apologizing to residents.
Councilwoman Melba Curls, who seldom dresses city staff down publicly, said bureaucrats should have talked to residents "before all this happened and got their input."
The council discussion came because Councilman Jermaine Reed pushed the issue, citing safety concerns.
In the last several weeks, city crews have been busy bagging up 37 stoplights and putting up stop signs.
They are working off data that public works officials say shows stop signs make intersections safer than lights, because drivers have to stop each time. City officials also said it would save the city money.
But there has been a lot of push back from people who want the traffic light back.
Eighth grader Angie Arambula said she doesn't like the new stop signs at St. John Avenue and Van Brunt Boulevard, where she crosses with her little brother and sister.
"It's confusing. I don't know when to cross. I want it to go back to the lights again," Arambula said.
"There were two wrecks out here this weekend. It's dangerous," resident Shyray Jackson said.
Reed has 19 of the 37 targeted intersections in his district, and he has been flooded with calls from concerned residents.
"We've heard their voices. I wanted to make sure we are providing leadership at City Hall," Reed said.
Reed took action, introducing a resolution to put the program on hold so the city can meet with residents and get their input.
"I believe we have to bring this to a halt, just like traffic, bring it to a halt so we can have more dialogue with our citizens before just going out and doing something that has an impact on their lives," he said before Thursday's council meeting.
Councilman Scott Wagner said the city must do a better job of communicating with residents.
"We do try to ask for forgiveness later," he said.
Councilman John Sharp was blunt in his criticism. Citing an internal memo, he said council members were asked to "sell as an update of the traffic signal system," and "pitch the success story."
Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre admitted the transition could have been better handled.
"We would certainly apologize for not having a clear communication and some advance notice to them, yes," she said.
As Reed sought, the city agreed on Thursday to have a series of community meetings in the coming weeks before making a final decision on removing the 37 traffic signals.
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