Kansas City Doesn’t Need New Roads — It Needs Sidewalks

Only one side of this one-way traffic funnel in Kansas City has sidewalks. Photo: Brent Hugh
Only one side of this one-way traffic funnel in Kansas City has sidewalks. Photo: Brent Hugh

Kansas City is considering an $800 million bond to repair infrastructure. Before any shovels get in the ground, the advocacy group BikeWalkKC wants to lay down some ground rules to ensure the investment is well-spent.

Rather than waste the money building new roads, BikeWalkKC’s Eric Bunch says the city should fix what it has:

The promise of new development can make a compelling case for new infrastructure investment. Each new house or apartment building is a new source of property tax. If the new development spurs population growth it could bring more sales tax revenue thanks to increased demand for goods and services. And more residents in KCMO means more e-tax revenue.

The economics of this is shaky. There is strong evidence that infrastructure spending as a development tool is poor economic policy, particularly when it comes to constructing overbuilt roads to lure low-density suburban development.

A better approach would be to focus on the more than 2400 miles of existing streets (6400 lane miles).

Perhaps the most telling is the estimated $1 billion in backlogged sidewalk needs. An exact figure is unclear because they city only has a ballpark idea of the total number of sidewalk miles it owns. The condition of those sidewalks is far murkier. Citizen satisfaction in sidewalks trails that of our peer cities by a significant margin because only about half of all streets even have them. And many of the sidewalks that do exist are in a constant state of disrepair.

BikeWalkKC is encouraging locals to sign a petition urging the mayor to commit to a series of recommendations, including a fix-it-first policy for streets.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington shares data showing that Capital Bikeshare near transit stations get a disproportionate share of total use. And The Political Environment holds up a spectacular example of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s hypocrisy when it comes to road spending.

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