When thinking about economic development, one has to put themselves in the mindset of site selectors and those local businesses that are considering expansion. One of the critical factors often evaluated in this process is traffic counts; a business that relies on local clients has to be visible and accessible. Also, in my role as a banker, I help clients evaluate potential locations, often looking at current and historical traffic count data provided by Kansas Department of Transportation (“KDOT”) to help us make decisions. In addition to economic development, traffic count information can be helpful to governments in determining where to invest public works dollars.
I have spent a significant amount of time evaluating Fort Scott numbers issued by KDOT and have discovered some interesting trends when comparing 2010 data to that of 2019 (the latest available). The numbers have to be put in context of what I know about construction projects and events that may have rerouted traffic temporarily. One also has to look at population trends, which we know have fallen in Fort Scott over the time period considered.
- As one might expect, local streets have experienced a decline in numbers when 2019 data is compared to 2010. The major streets that I considered dropped an average of 8.97%.
- Local streets on the West side of 69 Highway generally saw a larger decline in traffic counts than that of the East side. One might conclude that the population loss we have experienced has disproportionately impacted the West side of town.
- State highway traffic counts, except 54 Highway west of 69 Highway, have steadily risen. The average change over the nine years was 2.77%; knowing that there are fewer Bourbon County residents on the highways, this can only mean that we have more nonresidents driving through our area or coming here for work.
- Only two local streets experienced significant increases in traffic: Indian Road west of 215th Street and Jayhawk Road east of Liberty Bell Road. I surmise that increased activity at Lake Fort Scott and ReproLogix, along with more people driving in from Missouri to work in Bourbon County account for those exceptions. Estimates are that about 1,000 employees in the county commute from another jurisdiction.
- Sales tax collections have steadily increased, which would seem to indicate that more nonresidents are spending money in Bourbon County.
The good news is that the two major state highways continue to increase in traffic count, bringing more people through Bourbon County. This is an opportunity that can be exploited. It is a safe assumption that the completion of the widening of 69 Highway all the way into Pittsburg will perpetuate that trend and continue to help us with sales tax collection.
Bourbon County REDI will continue to focus on data that can help our businesses strategize and make us more attractive to new prospects. We have a much better chance of economic success by staying informed as a community.