Ten miles of streetcar line planned for south of the river

Planning for the second phase of streetcars calls for 10 miles of line south of the Missouri River, Councilman Russ Johnson said Thursday.

Johnson, a leader in getting the downtown streetcars, also said plans call for the council to borrow about $100,000 a year from the Public Improvements Advisory Committee fund. That would pay interest on a $10 million bank loan to move the second phase forward.

Planners are studying nine routes, including one north of the river.

But there are no funds to extend from the downtown line across the river without help from the state, he said.

Lines under consideration include Main Street and other lines that would branch off of it.

How far a line on Main Street would go is uncertain. It is 3.75 miles from the end of the 2-mile downtown line near Union Station to 51st Street, he said.

Planners should have the chosen lines identified by March, he said, and the city must move ahead then with environmental and engineering studies.

Those $10 million studies are needed for federal funding, he said, like the $20 million federal grant recently approved for the $100 million downtown starter line.

“We need to strike while the iron is hot,” he said. “The current director of transportation seems to have our mayor’s phone number on speed dial.”

The PIAC money used for interest payments on the loan would be paid back after funding is in place for the second phase of the streetcars, he said.

Planners are considering using a transportation district to pay for the second phase, he said, like the one that provides local funding for the downtown line.

Voters in the new district would have to approve it, which could increase sales taxes there by up to 1 cent and also increase property taxes.

Johnson said he would speak to PIAC officials today about the plan.

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