Sunday, September 27, 2009

Future of South Kansas City: Big Trucks As Far As The Eye Can See

Back when MoDOT was making presentations about untangling the triangle, the community was fairly upset. There were visions of trucks carrying sealed containers coming through the community from Mexico. Whether the fears expressed then were actually allayed or whether that future seemed too far away, we’ll probably never know. What we do know is that people stopped talking about it.

Time passed and conversations turned to the possibility of a Wizards stadium and the attendant retail establishments. The community had something positive to look forward to. Then the deal fell through and our council people seemed totally amazed. While the community still wants to see retail – shops and eateries – they are most likely in for a big disappointment. The game has changed and that once so distant future is looming much closer. The difference is trucks won’t be coming from Mexico, but from Louisiana.

Trucking is already a big part of development in the Southland (CenterPoint), but some recent developments indicate that it could be the only game in town -- in effect betting everything on the insatiable demand of American consumers for goods manufactured overseas (China).

U.S. 71, already built to Interstate Highway standards in the Hickman Mills area and south, is to be re-designated I-49, and will connect south K.C. with ports in Louisiana. While the justification for this project is entirely freight-based; the more likely reason is that there are people who make a lot of money building roads whether we need them or not and they have tremendous political influence, even at the local level. (It might be interesting to look at campaign finance reports and see who is contributing to our local representatives.)

A local government official has indicated not only his support, but his enthusiasm, for the idea of a warehousing/distribution center to replace the pile of rubble formerly known as Bannister Mall. To some this seems the perfect solution for a multi-hundred acre space right next to an interstate. It also fits a pattern of large-scale solutions that involve lots of money and the need for political wheel-greasing with all the usual suspects and campaign contributions to make everyone happy (except the people trapped in their homes by falling real estate values).