Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway

Some time ago, during the intense discussions about naming a Kansas City street after Dr. King, some thoughtful person proposed that the thoroughfare to be named should be 1-435. I thought that was a great and appropriate suggestion worthy of debate. I don’t know the name of the individual who made this suggestion – they should get credit - but I would like to expand on that idea.

I-435 encircles – embraces – the entire metropolitan area, not just Kansas City. Missouri. By my count it runs through ten separate municipalities (and brushes very close to several others). And five counties. And two states. And it crosses our two great rivers; (the Missouri twice). It is 82 miles in circumference. It is truly a metropolitan, unifying, and important artery. Wouldn’t that be a fitting recognition of Dr King’s unifying mission?

No address need be changed. No businesses or residences are affected one way or another. it must have character and dignity appropriate to the recognition. Calling it a Parkway does not make it so. It would need some real attention.

But the fact is, long segments of I-35 are quite beautiful with natural hardwood forests on the sides and with miles of tidy rights of way. Some good landscaping has been done in many places. Other places should be filled in in the manner of Bruce Watkins Drive. Yes, there are about 160 billboard faces along the route, but about seventy five percent are concentrated on the east leg, Kauffman to Worlds of Fun. That blight should be continually attacked but miles of I-435 are billboard-free. A parkway would require some significant investment. But we have much more than a good start.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway!

A befitting honor bestowed by the entire metro area; a great unifying civic asset to be enjoyed by everyone; and an enduring reminder of this extraordinary American whose name it carries.

image courtesy kansas city star