Kansas City Will Take a Serious Look at Removing Downtown Highway

The days might be numbered for this section of downtown highway in Kansas City. Image:
The days might be numbered for this section of downtown highway in Kansas City. Image: Urban Land Institute Kansas City

Rochester just wrapped up the conversion of part of its Inner Loop highway into a surface street, another highway removal is underway in New Haven, and freeway teardowns are in play in many other American cities.

Now you can add Kansas City to the list of places getting serious about removing a grade-separated highway to save money, improve walkability, and open up downtown land for development.

This rendering shows how the street grid could be stitched back together. Image: Urban Land Institute Kansas City
Without the highway, the street grid can be stitched back together. Image: Urban Land Institute Kansas City

Eric Bunch at BikeWalkKC says the regional planning agency for the two Kansas Cities (Missouri and Kansas) is studying the removal of a section of I-70:

The study will propose several potential alternatives for the future of the Buck O’Neil (formerly the Broadway Bridge), the north leg of the Downtown KCMO freeway loop, and the elevated I-70 lanes into Downtown KCK.

Consultants for the project will likely evaluate the feasibility of tearing down the I-70 lanes between Columbus Park (KCMO) and Downtown KCK, setting Kansas City up to join the growing national trend of urban freeway removal.

Freeways once brought connectivity and convenient shipment of goods into urban centers and they made travel by car easier. But they also brought poor air quality noise pollution to densely populated areas. But even more, they proved to be extremely destructive to the communities they pass through, scarring historic neighborhoods and cutting off connectivity for residents.

If the complete removal of this section of I-70 proves to be feasible, the opportunities for catalytic, legacy projects abound.

  • Improved Walkability: The street grid between Downtown Columbus Park and River Market could be restored.
  • Development Potential: The trench that carries the north loop lanes contains hundreds of acres of prime downtown real estate that could be redeveloped into pedestrian/bike friendly uses.
  • Catalytic Trail Project: Imagine reusing the elevated lanes between the River Market and Downtown KCK as an elevated bicycle and pedestrian trail. Look at the impact of The Big Four Bridge in Louisville, KY.

More recommended reading: Bike Portland reports that local officials are using emergency measures to curb speeding on a dangerous road. And Daniel Kay Hertz points out that, contrary to popular perception, a lot of kids live in Chicago.

  • Walter Crunch

    The key is to NOT put an arterial under the former highways.

  • Robert

    I live in Rochester. The inner loop deconstruction isn’t as great an idea as it might sounds, but so far it’s limited to only a small part of it and it’s dealing with a minor secondary highway. The same thing with the New Haven project. But KC is talking about taking a major section out of an INTERSTATE HIGHWAY. How much time is going to be added to through traffic (tourists, truck drivers, etc.) who want to go from St. Louis to Denver for example who now have to go around the city instead of through it? Just think this is a really bad idea.

  • kevin

    Freeways within cities disrupt the street grid and create more congestion

  • Sam Schlageck

    Robert- If you look at a map of our downtown you will notice there is a loop around our downtown. Removing this section of highway will remove part of the loop which is underutilized. There will still be a through route for I-35 and I-70 for truck traffic and travelers through the city.

  • Bernard Finucane
  • Pat

    People going past KC (E-W) would use 670 anyway.

  • The Sixth Street Expressway – the first freeway to be built in Kansas City – is depressed beneath the level of the surface streets that cross it. Removing it would likely create a linear park or an opportunity to fill in the ditch.

  • Tina

    How about we fix our roads and bridges that need fixing before you rip up parts people use to commute daily to work.

  • No. These highways ruin cities. And people should use mass transmit to commute. This is how the rest of the world works.

  • The days of “car privilege” are over, and with it, the failing suburban model.

  • disqus_Tq1cQbeWFW

    Yeah, being that I used to live in LA… can’t agree entirely. A bunch of years back there was construction of a bridge OVER the 405. Twice they had to close to freeway for an entire weekend.

    Man did it create problems all over the city, was nick named “Carmaggedon”. I don’t know about KC specifically. But if an elevated freeway disrupts the city grid… what do you think it going to happen when its there on the ground?

  • Tina

    you do realize not everyone lives in the city right? There is city’s and little towns outside the city where people live and drive from to get to work downtown. Would cost a arm and a leg and more tax dollars for that. No thanks

  • People outside of cities are subsidized through massive government spending and incentives – at least $450 billion/year for suburbs and $100 billion for tax breaks. Simply removing these subsidies and incentives would save hundreds of billions of dollars; the market would take care of the rest. People can live wherever they want as long as they pay for it. Right now, the suburbs are pampered, subsidized elite that are bleeding this country dry. It’s not sustainable and the sooner we stop this model the better.

  • John Noble

    The polices along with the interstate system was to move military goods as fast as possible across the nation during a time of war. People who look for racism where ever they can create it are the racist. Your comment about the national debt and the interstate system is nonsense due to the fact tolls and taxes have paid for these roads in full many times over. Also, Obama doubled our national debt in 8 years but you blame roads instead. How rich…..Why don’t you do the world a favor and step off it…I am sure we will all sustain without you.. I am sure even better….Wow, what a loon..

  • John Noble

    You are laughable…..These highways were built to move our military to either coast in a time of war…You know nothing how the world works. You make up things and someone will go along with you out of the blind leading the blind in total darkness and ignorance.

  • John Noble

    We are not…You’re a moron….I pay more taxes than you ever will…..This person is a total idiot. I am sorry but I have read your stupidity and you are one total idiot…

  • nunyabeeswax

    wow, that is some stupid right there.Bicycle paths. what a joke. People need to travel, not to play with toys.

  • You are ignorant, as well as rude. Your taxes cover only a small fraction of the benefits you enjoy. The subsidies to the suburbs are conservatively estimated to be $450 billion – per year. That doesn’t include many hidden subsidies. Mortgage interest deduction? Highway construction? Pension support? Even the cost of car accidents – which totals $871 billion per year – is paid for by everyone – that means you don’t pay your share. And when we assumed $5 trillion for Fannie and Freddie, or bailed out the banks for $800 billion – this was to protect suburban homes, not urban renters. So, face the truth – you are a leech, a parasite, and a moocher. No wonder you are so defensive. Moochers always are.

  • Again, pure ignorance. You know nothing. What wars are we fighting? Not worth responding to. Go back to sleep.

  • No, your facts are so incredibly wrong. Highways do not pay for themselves. That is an easily verified fact. I blame Obama’s debt in part on supporting the banks, which was really supporting stupid home owners who bought more than they could afford. So, save your rage for your own miserable life. The rest of us are working to stop the subsidies that support parasites like you and return this country to the real world.

  • As usual, a big mouth moron like you has no facts, just spouts ignorance and rage…ho hum…it makes me ill to have contact with such half-wits. For the rest, here are some facts: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/urbs/the-conservative-case-against-the-suburbs/

  • Typical ignorant American. All opinions and ignorance. You support an absurd, unsustainable, unhealthy system – and don’t even think about it. Try leaving our suburban paradise and seeing the world – Europe, Asia. You will see the rest of the world rejects our foolish car-privileged transportation system and thrives without it. Instead of fat, sick, angry people driving around bloated SUVs, they use healthier forms of transportation. Guess what – their life expectancy isn’t going down, like ours is. We, on the other hand, are in massive debt, and 30,000 people a year die in traffic accidents – one of the leading causes of death for children. I guess that is OK if it culls the herd of morons, but innocent people also die.

  • nunyabeeswax

    Only a moron would think bicycling is a valid form of year round transportation in Kansas for all aspects of resident life. Weather, distance, the goods you have to move–put some thought into your response, instead of mindlessly copying talking points. without contemplating actual transportation needs.

  • nunyabeeswax

    Mass transit sucks. Crammed in like cattle into inflexible, slow, unreliable systems, unable to accommodate your personal varied needs.

  • nunyabeeswax

    really exploring this page..wow, talk about reality denying fanaticism.
    bikes are toys that belong in parks, not on real roads.

  • Charlie

    Funny, I sold my car and bike to work everyday, and it works great for me. I’m not the only one either…

  • Charlie

    They SHOULD be going around the city. That’s the point. Highways can lead you into a city if that’s your destination, but regional traffic should stay outside of downtowns.

  • Charlie

    Exactly. Stitching the street grid back together is key.

  • colinrhoffman

    How much do you think public transportation is paid for??? It’s certainly not paid for by those who purchase fares… In NY the MTA receives less than 50% of it’s annual budget in fares and the rest is what you like to call “government subsidies.” In DC less than 25% of the funding comes from fares and parking while the rest comes from “government subsidies.”

    I don’t care if you prefer public transportation to highways but let’s not pretend like one is a great deal for taxpayers and one isn’t.

  • nunyabeeswax

    good luck when there is any real weather about. Or you actually need to get something, move something. be spcial…..

  • You are taking a complex economic issue and combining many different issues. First of all, you are ignoring the cost per mile and the cost per person. Second, there is the question of benefit. As most of the population, economy, and productivity of the nation is in cities, the subsidies for transportation make economic sense; the thousands of miles of subsidized suburban roads – to areas of the country that generate minimal wealth – do not. But let’s look at some of the complex issues you raised in more detail.

  • I don’t prefer public transportation, but I oppose irrational drains on our national budget, and propping up money-losing enterprises, such as suburbs, must eventually end. The question is when, not if. This country has been desperately trying to hold back reality – for political reasons – but fighting reality is a losing battle. It is destroying America’s future. Time to pull the plug on this inefficient, doomed model. Not because I “prefer” anything – but because of simple economics. You can’t legislate prosperity. It didn’t work in Zimbabwe, Venezuela – or in America’s absurd suburbs.

  • These responses are backwards – but let me add that Washington DC is a completely corrupt, insane city and nothing they do makes any sense economically. Poor example.

  • Again, backwards comments (temporally), but when you look at the cost of driving, are you including the cost of accidents? That has been estimated to be $871 billion – per year. And we have had 400,000 men, women, and children killed since 9/11. Car accidents are among the leading cost of death in children. Do you include that fact in your calculations? How about the trillion dollars we spent in Iraq, fighting a war for oil? The costs of clean up from toxic oil and gas production? The health costs from the products of cars – in terms of heart disease and lung disease cancer and deaths?

  • A good start. They did that in Boston. Worked out well. We are destroying hundreds of miles of space in cities, and billions of dollars of value and growth – for car convenience.

  • Brent Hugh

    Every time I happen to through this area I just can’t help envisioning what look like as the type of boulevard outlined in this article. It truly is a failure as an interstate freeway. You just can’t pack that many on- and off-ramps into that small and area and have it work.

  • EarthIsAHoax

    1950 called, they want your outdated, ignorant opinion back

  • Charlie

    The few days when the weather is really bad, I just take transit to work. And when I need to move something, I’ll rent a truck. And when I buy large items like furniture or a TV, I’ll just have it delivered.

  • That’s funny – try learning something before telling others what to do. Go to Europe or Asia for countless examples of cities that thrive without car privilege. Our cities were designed in the 1950s to promote profits for car and oil companies, not make livable cities. Then moronic sheep went along, blindly following the dictates of these corporations. Cities in Europe did not do this – which is why they are thriving physically and economically, while ours wallow in debt, pollution, crime, and decline. But you have the full picture, it seems. Blame bikes!

  • kevin

    They shouldn’t be driving through cities when they have no intention on stopping at that city. Slicing cities in half with expressways just destroys the city and results in urban decay. If you build places that are horrible to live in, people won’t live there.

    Also, expressways typically cause more congestion within cities than boulevards due, as expressways create bottlenecks.

  • kevin

    Because in that scenario you’re dumping freeway traffic onto local streets, and to make it even worse there isn’t even a boulevard there to replace it. Eventually overtime traffic would shift to different areas. Also, LA isn’t really a dense city, it’s like a big suburb.

    West St in Manhattan is a good example of how to replace a highway in a city.

  • kevin

    Boston hid their expressway and built a parkway on the surface. Hardly an improvement.

  • Having lived with the elevated Central Artery snaking through Downtown Boston – and having to cross under it to get to and from the North End – I must strongly disagree with your statement. That buildings didn’t go up over the buried freeway is a relatively trivial matter, but there’s a huge difference between seeing a rusting metal hulk over your head and seeing blue sky.

  • neroden

    About $40 billion/year tax subsidy to the highways.

    Not as big as the $1 TRILLION/year wasted on the US military — which loses every war it gets into and is basically a paper tiger — but that’s another topic.

  • neroden

    IIRC, even Maimie Eisenhower was horrified to see expressways through the middle of cities. They were supposed to go around the cities.

  • neroden

    Look at the Kansas City map again. This wasteful highway segment should be ripped out immediately.

    The fact is that the direct route goes on I-670, which is going to remain intact. This section of I-70 is an extra, unnecessary loop of highway only 10 blocks away. It should be torn out immediately.

  • Yep. I’ve almost been plowed by a semi trying to get onto the freeway here. It’s tight.

  • Unless you scroll the map an inch in any direction.

  • Brian Clark

    The speed limit is 45 for good reason, but everyone drives 60 so it becomes an obstacle course around the on-ramps.


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