Mayor to keep on track for streetcar lines

File photo. Construction in preparation for the downtown streetcar route.

File photo. Construction in preparation for the downtown streetcar route.

Mayor Sly James said today the city will keep trying to find a way to extend the downtown streetcar line.

“The downtown starter line is a success and it remains our intention to ensure that the starter line is just that – a start,” he said in a press release.

James has said he and other officials were surprised Tuesday when voters south of the river voted down creating a transportation district.

“Last night voters told us that they want to see a balance between taking care of the basics and being ambitious,” he said. “I still strongly believe in rail as a conduit for economic development, but I understand where voters are coming from.”

Supporters of the eight-mile extension had hoped to get local approval of a 1-cent sales tax and special tax assessments in a separate election in November.

That will not happen now because voters Tuesday did not approve creating the district.

The plan for the $515 million extension and a MAX bus line on Prospect would have required about $250 million in federal funding. James contended the city had the best chance to get that under the Obama administration after the city had its funding approved.

But opponents said the higher sales tax would be a burden for the poor and questioned whether streetcars would lead to economic development in distressed areas.

The plan had been to extend the streetcars from Union Station to UMKC, and east on Linwood and Independence Avenue for short distances.

The city has already approved spending millions for engineering and environmental studies related to the extension.


  1. Dan Cofran says:

    Enough already. Kansas City’s biggest problem isn’t a $500+ million streetcar system. It’s crime, schools and basic infrastructure. Let’s get our priorities straight.

    At a time when combined sales taxes are at, near or even over 10% in Kansas City MO, any tax increases should be very carefully limited to our most important needs, not wants. Reduced crime, success in our schools and basic infrastructure are needs. A streetcar is a want.

    I have long supported rail transit, particularly when I was on the City Council and the federal government paid 80% of the costs. Those days are gone. The inconvenient truth is that we can’t afford it today. Just like your house, you have to fix the leaking roof before you can fix the cracked driveway. It’s time to focus on quality basic services for all of Kansas City based on fair and reasonable taxes. The most important thing local government can do for economic development is provide quality basic services.

  2. Claude says:

    The streetcar is probably a good idea, but the sales tax is already too high.
    Another funding source needs to be found before taking the project back to the voters for more input.

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