By Kim Mueller
Kansas City voters living within the Main Street Transportation Development District (TDD) overwhelming approved local funding needed to extend the streetcar route 3.5 miles from Union Station to UMKC.
“It’s an exciting day to have both questions pass by such large margins,” Jared Campbell, Downtown Neighborhood Association president, said Wednesday. “It just goes to show how popular the streetcar has been and continues to be.“
Ten percent of the 35,000 eligible voters living within the TDD district mailed in their ballots, which is a typical turn out for special elections, said Kansas City Board of Elections Director Shawn Kieffer.
Of those ballots, which listed two questions, 75.6 percent agreed with Question 1 and approved the sales tax of one percent for less for 30 years in the district described.
And 74.7 percent of the voters agreed with Question 2, approving a special assessment on residential, retail, city-owned and tax-exempt properties in the district for 25 years or less.
The new tax levy, which only goes into effect if federal funding is obtained, will add about $14 million annually to the streetcar’s existing $11 million budget each year to be spent only on the system’s maintenance and operation, said Streetcar Authority spokeswoman Donna Mandelbaum.
The federal funding still needs to be found to plan and build the extension. An application is expected to be made in September.
With an estimated $250 million price tag, the KCSA plans to seek $100 million from Washington to help construct the system. The Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts Program won’t announce the winning projects until January.
If funding is obtained, the streetcar extension probably will not be completed until 2023, Mandelbaum said.
Before votes were even tallied, the KCSA and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority committed $1 million toward the extension’s planning and engineering phase led by HDR Engineering.
“This (vote) is one step in a long process,” said Tom Gerend, Streetcar Authority executive director. “But the strong support from the public is a great motivator for all of us and reinforces the importance of making this vision a reality.”
The latest mail-in vote was the last of a three elections involving the streetcar. Only eligible voters living within the Transportation Development District could participate in the election. The tax and assessment will be levied against only TDD residents.
In August, voters approved the formation of the Main Street Rail Transportation Development System. In October, they voted for the district’s board of directors.
Amidst all these elections, voters citywide also passed an ordinance prohibiting city officials from moving forward with the streetcar extension without first gaining citywide voter approval.
Then the City Council amended the ordinance to exclude the streetcar extension because the project already was under development.
“The city has a right to amend ordinances adopted through the initiative process,” said Doug Stone, attorney for the new TDD. “And that’s what they did.”
The TDD includes homes and businesses down Main Street from Union Station to the intersection of 51st Street and Brookside Blvd. The district’s general perimeter stretches from Stateline Road to Campbell Street.
“It really opens up the entire fourth district from River Market to 51st Street,” said Campbell who is running to replace Councilman Jolie Justus in the fourth district.
“By connecting UMKC It really creates a lot of opportunity to grow that north-south spine through Midtown.”
Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.