KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Changes may be coming to 71 Highway from 85th Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, thanks to a $5 million federal grant.

This section of U.S. Highway 71 is highest in the Kansas City area for severe injuries and deadly crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists.

The stoplights on 71 Highway are three of the top five intersections for deadly crashes in the city.

Former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver pushed for the signalized intersections instead of more traditional highway interchanges as a way to encourage development. Cleaver wanted drivers to not just zoom north and south through the urban neighborhoods.

The result has forced many neighbors to cross the dangerous highway to get to the Prospect Max bus line, grocery stores, and other shops that serve those who live on the east side.

“From January 1, 2020, to August 12, 2022, there have been five fatalities on 71 Highway between 85th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “Of those five fatalities, two involve pedestrians. Highway 71 is in desperate need of a clear vision for improvement.”

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant will develop a plan to improve safety, mobility and economic development along the highway.

Construction of 71 Highway began in the 1990s with the goal of providing a direct connection between downtown Kansas City and the growing southern suburbs.

The highway corridor forced out many African-American homeowners on the city’s east side. According to the mayor’s office, nearly 2,000 homes were torn down to make way for the highway. It’s expected to take up to five years to identify the safety and connectivity upgrades needed.

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