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For Commuters, This 'Spaghetti Mess' Of Highway Ramps In Kansas City, Kansas, Will Soon Be History

NorthPoint Development
A new design of the Turner Diagonal highway interchange in Kansas City, Kansas, will open up hundreds of acres around the highway and pave the way for a new distribution center park.

The highway interchange at I-70 and the Turner Diagonal in Kansas City, Kansas, will soon get a new look that city officials say is decades overdue.

The full commission of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, unanimously approved a development agreement for a $155 million redevelopment project for the area last week, which will involve a redesign of the heavily trafficked intersection.

The highway intersection was designed decades ago for a toll system that no longer exists there. UG Economic Development Director Katherine Carttar said that design no longer "makes any sense."

“It is just a spaghetti mess of ramps — the amount of ramps in that area. Look at an aerial view of that — it is just mind-boggling,” Carttar said.

Credit the Unified Government
Unified Government officials say the Turner Diagonal interchange is long-overdue for a makeover. The new design is shown in this mock-up.

The new design will simplify the interchange, removing ramps and opening up hundreds of acres of land. The changes will pave the way, in part, for the construction of a 2.7 million square foot distribution center park, on the east and west side of the Turner Diagonal Freeway.

"You can get to almost the entire country within two days from Kansas City by driving, and that's a big deal when it comes to distribution," Carttar said.

Turner Logistics Park will house up to eight industrial buildings, designed by Riverside-based NorthPoint Development. NorthPoint plans to model the park off of their Riverside Horizons Business Park. The company's industrial clients include Amazon, UPS, Ford, BNSF Railway and Boulevard Brewing Company.

Just last year, Amazon opened its third "fulfillment center" just south of the Turner Diagonal, with the promise of a few thousand jobs. 

Greg Kindle, president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, said the creation of jobs at Amazon over the past year contributed to a drop in unemployment. According to the organization, household income in the county has increased three years in a row, and the unemployment rate is 4.2%, a historic low.

With the 2,000 job openings expected at the Turner Logistics Park, Carttar said this trend could continue.

"For every single job that Amazon had, they had 24 or 25 qualified applicants, so there's a large pool of qualified residents in this area," she said. "This is still urban core. It really provides an opportunity to have good jobs. These are $15 an hour jobs with benefits. They're easily accessible by car."

The project is funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation, with help from a $13.9 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, awarded in December.

Construction is expected to begin this fall. Carttar said the new interchange and the first building in the development will be open by the end of 2020.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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