Here’s how billions in infrastructure dollars could clean up KC and boost development

·3 min read

While Mayor Quinton Lucas has been spending time in the nation’s capital setting the stage for Kansas City to claim a portion of the billions to be distributed to cities from the recently passed trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, at City Hall, they’re making a projects list.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will repair roads and bridges, improve transportation, build a network of electric vehicle charging stations, provide access to high-speed internet, deliver clean drinking water, improve airports and a lot more.

Affordable housing is something Kansas City sorely needs, which is why we should invest some of this money in our homeless communities, and in housing for low-income families.

Of course federal dollars always come with restrictions, and city leaders are waiting on guidance from Washington to know exactly how the money can be spent.

But with billions in federal grant dollars up for grabs, it’s important that whatever funds come to Kansas City — and it will likely be billions — more than roads and bridges should be on the list. Lucas has mentioned wanting energy-saving solar panels at Kansas City International Airport and funds for an east-west streetcar expansion, both of which would be good for the planet.

One thing 5th District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw wants in the mix is something to address flooding on the city’s south end, and that’s important, too.

Money should go toward cleaning up and beautifying our urban neighborhoods.

There’s no question that ugly, trashy neighborhoods strip the residents who live in them of their dignity. And a citywide beautification effort with solid plans and real dollars behind it harks back to the historical City Beautiful movement that transformed the look of Kansas City during the last decades of the 19 century and brought in the parks and boulevards we have today.

The city has already invested about $2 million in streetscape improvements in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, and has promised more to come. That needs to happen.

Yes, bike lanes, sidewalks, landscaping and simply cleaning up abandoned buildings and dump sites throughout the city have to be a part of all of this. But not without involving folks living in the neighborhoods.

And then there’s the riverfront. With a $70 million, 11,000-seat National Women’s Soccer League stadium complex planned to sit along the river, city leaders should consider putting additional dollars toward enhancing that area.

That’s a move that surely would continue to drive development and vitality to our long-neglected waterfront asset. Connecting it to the city’s center with the KC Streetcar and trails would only further attract residents to the housing projects planned for the Berkley Riverfront park area.

The West Bottoms can’t be left out. Whatever city leaders decide, some project that improves the red brick warehouse aesthetic in the West Bottoms should be included.

If Lucas really is excited about the possibility of a cleaner, more attractive Kansas City, there are definitely city spaces needing attention. And if nobody’s stopping city leaders from using money available through President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill for beautification, then Kansas City should spend some in just that way.

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