The area where a fan was killed by hit-and-run drivers while leaving the Kansas City Chiefs game on Sunday was already being evaluated for pedestrian safety improvements, a Kansas City official said.
“KCMO is saddened by another tragic loss of life on city streets — this is exactly why Vision Zero in KCMO is so important,” Jason Waldron, transportation director in Kansas City’s Public Works department, said in a statement Thursday.
“This location is already being evaluated by the Vision Zero team and we have already begun work with Jackson county to improve pedestrian safety through enhanced lighting, narrowing travel lanes, curb extensions, and potentially speed humps and traffic signals at crossings,” he continued.
In May 2020, The Kansas City City Council passed the Vision Zero resolution, which aims to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on the city’s streets by 2030 while “increasing safe, health, equitable mobility for everyone.”
“We are making progress in these efforts, but there is still much more to do — we take this work seriously and continue to prioritize making our streets safer for all users,” Waldron said.
Steven Hickle, 66, of Wichita was killed when he was struck by two hit-and-run drivers as he left Sunday night’s game at Arrowhead Stadium. He was trying to cross Blue Ridge Cutoff with another person near East 43rd Street when he was hit.
They had left the game early and police traffic crews were not yet in the area to help traffic exit the stadium. A driver in a southbound vehicle struck Hickle and then fled without stopping. While he was lying injured in the street, a second driver ran over him. That driver also fled the scene.
Hickle later died at the hospital.
Four days after the crash, police had no updates in the case and were still asking for the public’s help in finding the drivers and vehicles involved, said Officer Donna Drake, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City Police Department.
This week, bicycle and pedestrian safety advocates renewed their calls for making the area around the Truman Sports Complex safer.
Brent Hugh, executive director of Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, who lives not far from the fatal crash, said it was inevitable that something like the fatal pedestrian crash was going to happen given the way the street is designed and given how much pedestrian traffic there is in that area.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate because, you know, we shouldn’t have to be worried about potentially being struck and killed by errant drivers when all we’re trying to is get to and from something as simple as a football game,” said Michael Kelley, policy director for BikeWalkKC, who at one time lived in the area.
They are asking for a comprehensive look at the area to find a solution to make the area more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
Because the Missouri Department of Transportation doesn’t own the right of way, it most likely wouldn’t have a say in what, if any, changes are made, said Markl Johnson, a spokesman for MoDOT’s Kansas City District.
“We might be brought into the conversation just to be aware of what’s going on,” Johnson said.
Even then, Johnson said the transportation department would probably only be on the sideline looking in. They don’t want to dictate what other agencies should or shouldn’t do.
Caleb Clifford, chief of staff for the Jackson County Executive’s Office, said Hickle’s death was a tragic event and it was something that the county as well as others have been concerned about for some time.
“It’s obviously concerning anytime something like this happens and we’ve got to always be working to improve the sites to make them safer for everyone,” Clifford said.
The county will allow the investigation into the fatal crash to unfold, he said. Once completed, the county will have conversations with the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, which is responsible for managing the site for the county. Then they will engage both the Chiefs and Royals organizations to see how to proceed.
“I’ve known that the Sports Complex Authority, to their credit, has worked with the teams and made some improvements over the last few years, but we’ve got to continually look at that and see if there are other opportunities for us to make sure that this is a safe and family-friendly environment,” Clifford said.
In recent years, a sidewalk was constructed from the former Missouri Welcome Center near Interstate 70 and Blue Ridge Cutoff, which is used as a drop-off point for people using ride-hailing services, down into the complex for safety purposes, said Jim Rowland, executive director of Jackson County Sports Complex Authority.
The sports complex authority under the lease cedes control of the entire complex to each team on event days.
While the sports complex authority can’t control what happens outside of the complex, Rowland said it can act as a facilitator between the teams and those involved in the conversation about changes off site.
The authority, for example, worked with the county, the teams and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to establish a trailhead for the Rock Island Trail at the complex, he said.