Downtown Kansas City lost one of its most enthusiastic champions when Jared Miller was struck and killed by a semi-truck late Saturday morning while crossing the North Loop freeway from the River Market.
The eastbound trucker didn’t see the pedestrian until it was too late to avoid striking him, according to Kansas City Police. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a Facebook post Sunday, his wife Julie Miller said her 34-year-old husband was trying to cross the road after his run when he was hit.
“Jared was loved by so many,” she wrote. “There was no one in the world like my sweet guy.”
Those who knew Miller described him as a tireless advocate for downtown.
In fact, he was working with others at the time of his death to remove the very highway where he died, part of an ambitious plan called “Beyond the Loop.”
“He was a huge advocate for getting rid of that (North Loop). He saw the changes that needed to be made and was working his best to do that,” said Rick Usher, an assistant city manager. “The other thing that’s so heartbreaking is his age, 34. To have his life cut short so abruptly.”
A former suburban kid from Olathe, Miller had assembled an impressive pro-downtown portfolio during his relatively short life.
He was an early advocate for the streetcar and member of the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance, served as president of the Downtowners organization and was a graduate of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Centurions Leadership Program.
“Downtown was robbed of somebody who was going to do great things,” said Tyler Barnes, current president of the Downtowners. “He was setting himself up to be the best custodian he could be to move Kansas City forward for the next 20-40 years.”
After graduating from Olathe South, Miller got his degree in civil engineering from Kansas State University. He was a project manager at HNTB at the time of his death.
“The employees of HNTB are shocked and saddened by the sudden death of our colleague, Jared Miller,” spokesman Brian Cox said.
“He was a skilled visionary who was recognized regionally and nationally for his transportation planning and engineering expertise … Jared will be deeply missed in our firm and the Kansas City community where he faithfully and selflessly served.”
His friend and fellow streetcar advocate, David Johnson, said Miller lived in a downtown condo at the SoHo Lofts before moving to Brookside after marrying Julie in 2015. He was renting out the condo at the time of the accident.
“Jared was like a lot of people who didn’t grow up in an urban environment,” Johnson said. “It was something we didn’t think was feasible here until things started happening with Union Station, the Power & Light District and the city’s investment in housing.
“The big thing for me personally,” Johnson added, “was he was there at the beginning when we organized Streetcar Neighbors in 2011, an advocacy group for the streetcar line before the public vote. He was so enthusiastic, a person of boundless energy and optimism. He was way optimistic about the future of downtown and the future of the city.”
Tom Gerend, president and CEO of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, praised Miller on Twitter for his friendship and impact on the community.
“Our work together goes back 10+ years & includes more conversations than I can count on his vision for a better KC, transit, development, etc.,” Gerend wrote. “Jared was a doer.”
Barnes said Miller invited him to join the Downtowners when he attended one of the group’s monthly luncheons eight years ago.
“One of the things he did was invigorate the Downtowners into becoming a younger, more active group involved in downtown,” Barnes said. “He spearheaded social media and outreach. He was a massive inspiration and encouraged people to get off their butts and do what they could for Kansas City.”
Miller graduated in 2018 from the Chamber Centurion Leadership Program. He volunteered more than 100 hours and co-chaired the group’s communications committee.
Shalea Walter of Arvest Bank was chair of the Centurion steering committee while Miller was there. “Jared’s enthusiasm for our city was contagious,” she said.
“Jared was quoted in a past Centurions Newsletter, in response to what he was most hoping to learn in Centurions, as: ‘Every great city has a story of how it adapted to change and succeeded, and I want to learn how that story has been and currently is being written in Kansas City.’ The Centurions community is deeply saddened by the loss of his friendship, leadership, and vision.”
A viewing is scheduled for Friday from 6-8 p.m. at the McGilley & Frye funeral home, 105 E. Loula St., Olathe, Kansas 66061. The funeral will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Church of the Resurrection (West), 24000 W. Valley Parkway, Olathe, Kansas 66061.
A Go Fund Me account also has been established for the Millers.
Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.