KC OKs more streetcars, minus a neighborhood

Written by Douglas John Bowen
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A conceptual plan for streetcar extensions totaling almost eight miles was given the go-ahead Thursday, March 27, 2014, by the Kansas City city council, with a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) element also approved.

The move in effect would add to the existing starter streetcar line, now under construction. Like the initial route, the extensions are subject to a court hearing and, possibly, elections determining whether local funding sources, such as a special tax district, will be validated be voters.

Streetcar extensions would run on Independence Avenue to Benton Boulevard, on Linwood Boulevard to Prospect Avenue, and south on Main Street to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Voters would be asked at a November election to approve a 1 cent sales tax increase within a specific district, plus special property tax assessments within 1/3 mile of the proposed routes. The taxes would not take effect until supporting federal funding was in place.

Streetcar supporters were upbeat over the long-term prospects. “This is a good day,” Kansas City Councilman Jim Glover told local media. “We’ve worked a long time to get to this point.”

The plan pointed avoids the affluent Brookside neighborhood, where residents made clear their opposition to any streetcar development. One area resident Thursday still objected to streetcar development anywhere, asserting that improved bus service was a cheaper option.

HDR Inc.. official Dave Vozzolo said the mix of streetcar and BRT should gain favor with the Federal Transit Administration, which would aid Kansas City effort to secure 50%, or $250 million, of the anticipated capital costs. HDR Inc. is overseeing final design of the current 2.2-mile streetcar project, estimated to cost $114 million. 

Last September the city awarded a construction contract to a joint venture comprised of St. Joseph, Mo.-based Herzog Contracting Corp. and Alameda, Calif.-based Stacy and Witbeck.

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