In the mid-twentieth century, Kansas City officials shifted their focus and funding from public transportation to highway development amid the emergence of a national highway system. Although the city had created an extensive streetcar system before World War II, post-war suburbanization and economic changes prompted officials to consider new ways to increase the city’s economic growth. They proposed a plan to develop highways that would drive traffic from the growing suburban areas like Lee’s Summit, Grandview, and the Northland to downtown Kansas City. This map shows the stages of construction planned for Kansas City’s expressway system as envisioned by the City Planning Commission in 1951.
Kansas City’s decision to move away from funding public transportation to create a highway system significantly impacted the city’s urban core. Highway construction dismantled existing communities, displaced thousands of Black and lower-income families, and reinforced racial segregation in the urban environment. The highways also led to the decline of the downtown economic core as jobs and retail shifted to new residential centers on both sides of the state line. Other unforeseen consequences included the stagnation of the city’s population and decay of the city’s tax base as city residents used the highways to relocate to surrounding towns, taking higher property values with them.
Categories: Cities & Towns
Creator: Kansas City Planning Commission
Subject: Maps; City Planning; Express Highways
Contributing Institution: Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections
Accession Number: 30000452
Rights: Images and texts may be reproduced without prior permission only for purposes of temporary use, private study, scholarship, or research. Those using these images and texts assume all responsibility for questions of copyright and privacy that may arise.
Region: Kansas City Metro