By Kevin Collison
The Kansas City Streetcar Authority is moving ahead with the next phase of planning for an proposed extension of the line from downtown to UMKC despite Tuesday’s election setback.
The authority has approved spending $1 million to hire a team led by HDR Engineering to begin work on what’s called the Streetcar Southern Extension project.
It calls for extending the route from Union Station south on Main Street to a new apartment and retail project going up by UMKC at 51st and Brookside. An expansion would connect what’s been called the River Crown Plaza urban heart of Kansas City.
The decision comes during a tumultuous political week for the streetcar.
Last week, voters living along the proposed route approved establishing a transportation development district (TDD) to fund the expansion during a special, mail-in election.
Then Tuesday, voters citywide narrowly approved Question #1, a petition that would ban the city from participating in or funding any expansion without citywide approval.
Tom Gerend, streetcar executive director, vowed to continue moving forward.
“While the results of Question #1 are disappointing, the KC Streetcar Authority is committed to continuing previously initiated planning and expansion activities as we strive to maximize the value, benefit and impact of our successful streetcar starter line,” Gerend said in a statement.
The $1 million authorized to fund the new planning study comes from the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Streetcar Authority, not the city, so it does not violate the recently approved petition.
The City Law Department also has questioned the legality of the petition, and the City Council could vote to overturn it.
The new planning effort led by HDR includes determining whether the proposed extension should run down the center or side of Main Street; station stop locations; updated cost estimates, and initiating application for federal funding. It’s expected to last nine months.
Other participants in the HDR team are Burns & McDonnell, HNTB, Trekk Design Group, Hg Consult, Parson + Associates, VSM Engineering and Architectural and Historical Research.
“This effort is a critical step towards advancing the region’s transit vision and completing the due diligence that will be required to make this vision a reality,” Gerend said in a statement.
The downtown streetcar celebrated its first anniversary last May and has surpassed expectations in terms of ridership and attracting new development.
The authority recently ordered two new cars to accommodate the demand.