Transportation and Infrastructure


For years, Kansas City’s well-known interstate access came through its connections to I-35, I-70 and I-29, all vital cogs in the national wheel of commerce. They span the nation east to west, bisect it north to south, and give this region access to the Northern Great Plains states, and eventually the Great Lakes and Mexico. In recent years, the development of I-49 to the nation’s interstate grid has positioned this region with access to the Gulf of Mexico by overland freight, complementing that reach by water.

That puts KC in some elite company as a transportation center, with the likes of New York, Dallas and Chicago.

Over the past half-decade, those assets and the presence of major rail lines running thro-
ugh this region have given Kansas City a new cachet
in corporate discussions about where to build national, even international, distribution facilities.

And as our history has shown, when our transpor-tation facilities expand, the region benefits as well.

Water-borne commerce gave the city its start, thanks to the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, which meet just west of Downtown. And the Missouri River continues to play a strategic role for agricultural commerce.

As the city developed—and the locomotive evolved—the region took on new shipping importance in the late 19th century. That connection, in fact, made steak dinners in New York possible, thanks to refrigerated rail cars coming out of the Kansas City stockyards.

Even today long after the stockyards have closed here, Kansas City remains the second-largest rail center in the country, and No. 1 overall in terms of rail tonnage shipped every year. The region is served by both BNSF and Union Pacific, linking to the networks that reach ports on  the West Coast, intermountain metro areas including Denver and Salt Lake City, the Great Lakes region, which includes Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, and Dallas and Houston on the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Kansas City Southern Railway provides a direct rail infrastructure not just to the Gulf, but through Mexico thanks to its Kansas City Southern de Mexico subsidiary, with rail links into countries throughout Central America. The company also owns a 50-percent share of the Panama Canal Railway Co., connecting rail traffic for ocean-bound shipping to either the Atlantic or Pacific.

And, finally, there is air transportation. Kansas City International airport, moves more air cargo each year than any other airport within a six-state area. Of course, it’s the premier passenger-traffic destination in the region, and the City has resumed discussions about a billion-dollar makeover to convert its 45-year-old, three-terminal design into a consolidated, one-terminal operation.

Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport serves the heart of the metro area and is adjacent to the commercial core of the region, while Executive Airport serves much the same function in the other half of the region’s commercial base in Johnson County, on the Kansas side. And an hour’s drive away, or less, are additional airports in Topeka and St. Joseph.

Others that help relieve some of the passenger traffic congestion in the region are New Century AirCenter in Johnson County, and Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport, and the Max B. Fisher Skyhaven Airport in Warrensburg, operated by the University of Central Missouri.