Transportation and location weigh heavily on the layout and growth of Columbia.
Being halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis and situated on Interstate 70, the location of Columbia has shaped its growth and development.
“Location had been the determinant of Columbia,” said Rex Campbell, an MU rural sociologist. “It was conducive to economic development because of transportation.”
The development of Interstate 70 brought commerce to the area. Until the late 1960s, Columbia’s growth was based mainly on MU.
“Columbia has developed as a regional trade center,” Campbell said. The defined areas of downtown, the university, the industries to the north, the residential neighborhoods, and the commerce to the west are what Campbell refers to as “multiple Columbias.”
Bob Brendel of the Missouri Department of Transportation said that in the past “Columbia was used as a crossroads point for Kansas City, St. Louis and Jefferson City; now, it is a destination.”
I-70 remains the primary east-west route through Columbia — and through the state.
“For many years, I-70 defined the northern border, until developable land became scarce in southern Columbia, which shifted the development of I-70 where land was cheaper,” Brendel said. Access to transportation and cheap land attracted manufacturing industries to northern Columbia.
Many service industries that have formed along the highway as a way to cater to travelers are bordered by the businesses that cater to permanent residents.
Charles Bondra, the city’s acting director of planning, said that I-70 also has a bearing on how Columbia deals with growth.
“Transportation issues come up with any rezoning issues,” he said.
Future growth will largely depend on the interstate, Brendel said. “I-70 defines Columbia.”