Friday, August 6, 2010

The Tragedy of 71 Highway

Some 12 years or so ago, Kansas City completed a new link between the south and downtown as an extension of 71 highway running from the grandview triangle to downtown I-35/29.  There was every reason to hope.  On the other side of the border, US 69/ Overland Park Expressway, was a vital link to bridge south and north johnson county.   The idea of hopping off the suburban street and zipping on the highway at 65 miles an hour make US 69 a vital corridor.
Kansas City, eager to not be like its prosperous neighbor, decided to mess up their corridor.  Based on the fear of racism and abandonment of the urban core, Kansas City planners insisted that the new 71 highway stretch feature traffic lights instead of exit and entrance ramps for the 55th, 59th, and 75th street exits.  Putting 3 traffic lights into this new link effectively rendered it impotent.  After over a decade, not a single business has benefited from having the stop lights.  This stretch of highway has become infamous for car jackings, murders, random shootings, traffic jams, and endless wrecks brought on by the lights.
Kansas City had a chance at redemption as 65 million dollars will now be spent to make US 71 an interstate highway 49 connecting KC to Joplin and eventually New Orleans.  To do this, all of the rural direct highway access roads will be closed down, replaced with on and off ramps so as to maintain the prevailing speed on the highway.  However, missing from this plan is the chance to build such ramps the the locations in mid town that have lights.
I lament the missed opportunity Kansas City had by bowing to racial provocateurs.  Instead of using 71, most people avoid it.  If the proper ramps had been installed instead of lights, I believe that the volume of cars using this corridor would have been greatly increased.  Isn't that the goal.  If the volume is increased, there is a higher likely hood of cars exiting.  Additionally, how many people on 55th or 59th traveling east or west are happy about having to endure the long red lights.   Think of how many eastern and southern  johnson countians would have been more likely to take the quick 10 MINUTE drive down 71 to sample downtown or the plaza, if there had only been no lights.

6 comments:

S. Dogood said...

I could not agree more. This a huge waste of concrete. I NEVER go that way EVER - even when it would save me several miles on trips north.

Because of the lights I dont go that way.

Because I dont go that way I am unfamiliar with the exits to the plaza or anything else down there.

jrchaard said...

Well said

Kansas Bob said...

The promise of this highway was evident when I arrived here in 1976. I was happy because I worked at 63rd and Prospect. Sadly this highway became embroiled in KC politics and the court system. Property that was condemned in the early 70s sat vacant for years until parts of it began to open in the 90s. I do use it when I travel on the east side of town.. not too many alternate paths available.

You may find this article, called "Political Opportunity, Community Identity, and the Emergence of a Local
Anti-Expressway Movement", on the history of this section of pavement interesting.

jrchaard said...

I would love to read it but the article won't open. Thank you for your other comments

Kansas Bob said...

I emailed it to your yahoo account.

S. Dogood said...

good to know the failure is 30 yrs old