Kansas City Streetcar seeks federal grants for Main Street Extension

Written by Stuart Chirls, Senior Editor
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The KC Streetcar recently applied for $151 million in federal funding for its planned Main Street Extension to University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The project team, consisting of the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA), the KC Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), and the City of Kansas City, submitted the formal application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the New Starts Capital Investment Grants Program, seeking $151 million dollars in federal funding and inclusion in the federal 2020-year budget to support the estimated $316 million-dollar project.

The Main Street Extension to UMKC consists of an outside running track alignment from Union Station to 51 Street, an additional six streetcar vehicles, and 16 new stops.

The KCSA said that both federal and local funding are needed to move the project into design and construction. Local funding was earlier this year approved by the voters in the establishment of the Main Street Rail Transportation Development District (TDD). The District includes a retail sales tax of up to 1%; assessments on real estate, and a supplemental special assessment on surface pay parking lots. The TDD revenue does not kick in until the project is fully funded, and replaces and expands the existing downtown TDD used to support initial construction and operations.

Throughout the summer, the KC Streetcar project team continued to work on overall project development activities, station stop location and track alignments, environmental documentation and development of a detailed financial plan in order to apply for federal funding.

Updated project cost estimates due to what the KCSA termed “recent market escalations” inflation forecasts, and other factors now put the total cost for the 3.6-mile route from Union Station to 51st Street at $279 million in 2018 dollars, and $316 million when inflating costs to 2023 dollars, the planned year of opening, and accounting for project contingency.

“Overall project contingency currently stands at 33% ($104 million) of total project costs in an effort to pro-actively plan for this uncertainty and respond to recent FTA guidance in reaction to market escalations,” KCSA said. “Importantly, this increased project cost does not reflect any change in project scope nor does it affect the local funding already in place for the extension, with no additional local funding required to support the proposed program.”

The federal money would be combined with $164 million in local funding from the voter-approved TDD, reflecting a 48% federal funding and 52% local funding match.

“We feel strongly that our New Starts federal grant submission will compete well with projects across the country based on our merits and the proven success of the downtown starter line,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority. “Approved TDD funds will cover the local funding needed to move this project forward, in addition to creating a sustainable source of revenue for ongoing operations and maintenance.”

The city will serve as the project sponsor and grantee for the New Starts program and will oversee design and construction for the streetcar expansion project. The KCSA and KCATA will serve as partners through this process as well as design, construction and operations.

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