Votes likely this year in KC for streetcar system

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) — Most Kansas City residents who live south of the Missouri River likely will get a chance to vote this year on two issues that could determine the future of an expanded streetcar system in the city.

Members of a City Council committee approved plans Thursday for a big new streetcar taxing district that would encompass much of the city.
Residents are likely to vote in August on whether to approve the taxing district and vote again in November on a measure to increase taxes to pay for the expanded streetcar line, The Kansas City Star ( reported.
Supporters at Thursday’s meeting said it’s crucial to move quickly on the new district to provide local funding that can help the city create an actual streetcar system, rather than just a two-mile starter route that already has been approved.
“We need to start now,” attorney Doug Stone told the joint finance and transportation council committee.
Stone outlined a strategy to help pay for possibly 10 more miles of streetcar line by 2019 or 2020. Committee members unanimously endorsed the plan, which goes to the full council Thursday.
“This is bigger than just the starter line,” Councilman Russ Johnson said.
An affirmative vote in both elections could help Kansas City get substantial federal funding for the system, Stone said.
Streetcar planners would seek voter approval for a one-cent sales tax increase in the new district, along with special property taxes for properties within about a half-mile along the streetcar lines. The specific routes for the extensions haven’t been determined.
The new taxing district would replace the current downtown transportation district that is helping pay to run the starter line from the River Market to Union Station, Stone said.
Local funding would not pay the full cost of the streetcar extensions, which could reach $400 million, he said. The city will aggressively seek federal funding and other financing sources, he said, but it needs to get started on local funding first.
That’s why the funding elections need to be held this year for extensions that might not be built until 2020, he said.
“Is it a lot of money, heck yeah,” Stone said. “But so is a street, so is a highway, so is a bridge.”
Nobody spoke in opposition at Thursday’s committee meeting.