Streetcar expansion vote approved

Streetcar expansion map

All of Midtown would be included in the streetcar expansion district, meaning a one-cent sales tax would be in effect and some property owners would pay a special assessment.

The city council on Thursday unanimously approved putting the first step toward streetcar expansion to voters.

The August vote will be on whether to create a large transportation district south of the river.

Roughly the boundaries would be from the Missouri River to 85th Street and from State Line Road to 435.

If voters in that area approve it, they will vote again in November on whether to approve a one-cent sales tax and higher property tax assessments for those close to streetcar lines.

The existing downtown transportation district would be part of the new district so people downtown would pay the same taxes they do now.

The city money is needed to get federal funds that are expected to pay for at least 40 percent of the extension.

Councilman Russ Johnson said, “Kansas City will not have to pay for the burden of paying for this alone.”

Local taxes would not be collected at all unless the federal funds are secured, he said.

Johnson, who has led efforts on streetcars, said local funding has to be approved before the city can get federal funding.

The hope is to secure federal funding before the next presidential election and start construction by about 2018.

A study is underway on where eight-to-10 miles of streetline extensions would go. It is looking at going south on Main Street to at least 51st Street and possibly as far as 85th Street, with eastern extensions going off Main at Independence Avenue and either 31st Street or Linwood Boulevard.

Mayor Sly James, who recently visited top federal transportation officials, said at least three other cities are in the same position and competition for federal money is intense.

So far, the two-mile downtown starter line that got a $20 million federal grant and other smaller amounts, is on time and on budget, James said.

Federal officials have a high opinion of Kansas City right now, he said, but unless it gets the local funding approved in a November vote, there will be no chance of federal money for a very long time.

(Disclosure: The Midtown KC Post’s Mary Jo Draper and Joe Lambe are part of the streetcar expansion project outreach team).

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