Where does Kansas rank among the states in the number of
public road miles?
Kansas comes in at a surprising No. 3 in terms of all public
road miles. According to national transportation statistics, Kansas (140,653
miles) ranks behind No. 1 Texas (310,850) and No. 2 California (171,874). Most
of Kansas’ public road miles are on local systems. The state highway system,
statutorily capped at 10,000 miles, and the Kansas Turnpike carry about 56
percent of all traffic in the state.
So how did Kansas, with a land area that ranks 15th among
the states and a population that ranks 34th, get so many road miles?
There are probably a number of factors, but one reason is suggested in Milestones, a KDOT history book: the
Kansas Legislature in 1869 recognized farmers wanted roads to their farms that
didn’t cross cropland, so they started designating the section lines as public
highways. A Kansas section is a square mile, so it’s easy to see how the
mileage number got so big. And, since Kansas has no mountain ranges and
relatively few large bodies of water, there aren’t many natural barriers in the
way of building a road.