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Final Local Push Underway to Extend Streetcar from Downtown to UMKC

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2 minute read

By Kevin Collison

The complex process required to extend the streetcar from downtown to the University of Missouri-Kansas City is nearing the end of the line, at least locally, with voters along the route now eligible to apply for ballots for the upcoming mail-in election.

Beginning this week, registered voters within the Transportation Development District established along Main Street for the project, including downtown residents near the existing streetcar route, can apply for ballots from the Jackson County Circuit Court.

They must apply for those ballots no later than April 3. A map of the TDD and downloadable ballots can be found on the court website here.

Ballots will be mailed by the Circuit Court Administrator’s office on May 1. They must be notarized and returned to the court office no later then 5 p.m. on June 12.

At a meeting of the Downtown Council last week, Jan Marcason, chairwoman of the TDD board, urged support for the estimated $230 million project.

“It’s expensive, but the streetcar has proven to be highly profitable for the city and for businesses along the route,” she said. “It’s a great investment for the city.”

The earliest a Main Street extension could be operational is 2022. It would connect downtown with Midtown/Westport, the Country Club Plaza and UMKC at 51st and Brookside.

The potential expansion already has sparked investments along the route including the redevelopment of the historic Netherlands Hotel building near 39th and Main into apartments.

This is the third mail-in election that’s been required for the Main Street extension proposal. The first in August 2017 established the TDD and the second last October elected the seven-member board of directors.

This final local election will allow the Transportation Development District board to establish the local revenue sources required to help finance the project.

The revenue sources for the current downtown route are a 1 percent sales tax increase and an additional assessment on property values.

Marcason said businesses and property owners in the TDD established for the existing streetcar will see no change in their rates.

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority also will be seeking at least $100 million in federal funding for the extension project. The local TDD funding would not kick in unless the authority is successful winning approval from Washington.

Kite Singleton, past chair of the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance, a key advocacy group, told the Downtown Council he was optimistic about vote, noting the last mail-in vote in the fall was approved with a 70 percent margin.

“The history of voters in the corridor have supported previous proposals,” he said.

The streetcar extension plan also was endorsed recently by The Kansas City Star editorial board and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

If successful locally, the streetcar authority is expected to apply for federal funding this fall. In January, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) moved the project into the “project development” phase. That designation allowed the authority to seek federal money.

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