Traffic concerns won’t go away for residents of Platte County

I’ve noticed some fresh tar patches on Interstate 29. 

A heavy traffic load and winter left some pretty good cracks in the pavement, especially in seams between lanes. So temporary are these patches, and so limited is the Northland’s time to feel like we’re the land of the open road beyond Downtown Kansas City’s traffic crunch.

Traffic congestion is already an issue for some of us. 

Just wait until the residential boom growth being planned between First Creek and Second Creek in Kansas City takes off, and businesses arise to take advantage. Plus houses keep going up in the rest of Platte County, too. 

Let us not discount also those who drive in and out of Kansas City from St. Joseph to work. Or people who live in all of southern Buchanan County for that matter. 

Traffic is going to be an issue for everyone someday, maybe sooner than people realize. So those cracks in the highway are a trifle compared to bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic. 
You laugh if your commute is from Parkville to the airport, or from one end of Platte City to another, or from Weston to Leavenworth. But bumper-car traffic is common for those who venture south of the Missouri River to work. 

Just last week I heard a screech and whack while creeping along Downtown. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw that the lady driving behind me had been hit from behind. Luckily, we were all only doing about two miles an hour. Damage was minimal but frustration maximum for someone trading insurance info in the middle lane of three lanes of frustrated drivers on a freeway.

My friends who have lived in San Francisco and New York tell me I’m soft. Two and three hours on the road is common in those places to cover a 40-mile commute. 

Ouch. I really don’t want that here.

So I’ve followed news of the new streetcar Downtown with interest. I hope it is a smashing success with new lines added faster than it took to get the short hop that now glides from the City Market to Union Station. But I also hope our local civic and elected leaders are ready to lobby, plead and beg for better mass transit to run from the Kansas City International Airport into the city.

Recently, as I drive past the airport, I’ve been noticing the enormous numbers of cars parked in both the private and the public lots. I wonder: will we save space around the airport or near the I-29 corridor for parking for mass transit?

Street cars or light rail trains are not going to pull up in front of our houses. Platte County’s hills, winding roads and hodge-podge mix of rural and urban means we’re always going to have some dependency on cars. That’s why we don’t already have light rail; it’s complicated and expensive. 

Though it is rather stunning to remember that in the early 1900s the Interurban Railroad was a street car system running up through Platte County from Kansas City to St. Joseph. The line passed through, via Riverside, Camden Point and Dearborn, and the diamond-shaped system also linked Excelsior Springs and other stops. If they could do it then, you would think we could do it now. 

Only a preference for the auto killed that system and suppresses mass transit usage now, too. And we’ve made the world more complicated and expensive, not less so, no matter the endeavor. 

I’m hopeful, though, that young people are less pessimistic and more creative. Just think, while riding  mass transit they could fiddle with digital devices at will without being dangerous distracted drivers.

I’d like that, too, right now. 

But the best I can hope for is that elected community leaders and salaried public servants are leaving places on the planning maps for better bus, rail or even street car transit, maybe in my lifetime. Demand will rise as the road gets crunchier.

Maybe someday I’ll make a short drive from Platte City to Ferrelview, drive into the green-design parking garage with native plant landscaping around it, a green roof park on top, the next level down holding shops and eateries (including a good BBQ joint) for commuters who want to grab supper on the way home, and several levels of parking marked well enough so I don’t get lost looking for my car.

I can only dream, and hope smart young people are doing the same.

Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at