Three new streetcar lines recommended to city council

Citizens along all eight corridors being studied attended meetings and gave input into the potential streetcar expansion routes.

By Joe Lambe

A group of streetcar consultants on Thursday reported on what the data says about eight potential extension routes and suggested paying for them with a large new transportation district.

They presented their report at the city council business session where council members spoke in favor of the plan.

It suggests, based on the data collected, extending the two-mile downtown line that is to run from the River Market to Union Station.

The highest rankings for extensions were Main Street to either 51st or 75th streets, east of Main along either 31st Street or Linwood Boulevard (or both) for 1.8 miles, and along Independence Avenue to about Benton Boulevard.

Vince Gauthier, project director for BNIM Architects, said scores were assigned on factors like economic and neighborhood development, land use and demographics, transportation needs and and the ability to attract federal funding.

The consultants also recommended that the city might consider a non-rail transit study for the joint Southwest Boulevard/18th Street corridor.

Councilman Russ Johnson, a leader in the streetcar effort, said he will introduce a resolution calling for further study of the three chosen streetcar routes and for study of transit upgrades to Southwest Boulevard/18th Street.

If the longer Main Street route goes to Waldo, the three new routes would create about 9.5 miles of line.

Doug Stone, attorney for the Downtown Streetcar Transportation Development District, said preliminary projections show that a large transportation district, including the area for the downtown district, could raise about $48.5 million a year (with the longer Main Street line), enough to pay more than half the cost of the project.

Federal, state and other funds would have to pay for the rest, he said.

“I think I can look at all of you with a straight face and say there is a seed here with proper watering that can pay half of the cost of the project,” he said.

The district, which would have to be approved by voters within it, would run roughly from the Missouri River to 75th Street, from the state line to Highway 435.

Property owners in zones four to five blocks on either side of the routes could be subject to higher property taxes – about $133 more a year on a $100,000 house – and the whole area would have a cent higher sales tax, he said.

Those in the downtown transportation district used for the starter line would not have additional taxes because those they pay now would be rolled into the new larger district, Stone said.

Councilman John Sharp said the numbers show the project is financially viable and citizen enthusiasm has been strong at meetings.

“I think the support has always been there but people just never thought it would happen,” he said.

Mayor Sly James said the downtown streetcars, not scheduled to run until fall of 2015, have already attracted 33 planned or completed development projects.

“Let me assure you,” he said, “there is some more big stuff coming.”

Consultants said they hope to have detailed study reports on the three routes done by March.

(The Midtown KC Post’s Mary Jo Draper is on the project team for the NextRail KC project).

view the presentation to the council

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