Kansas City’s streetcar plan passed the test with Downtown voters yesterday, as they approved a special taxing district to help fund the project.
According to today edition of The Kansas City Star:
City officials said they’ve also found a way to close a $25 million gap in federal funds for the project, and they’re now confident they can raise all the money necessary for a $100 million, two-mile streetcar system from River Market to Crown Center.
“This project is a go,” City Councilman Russ Johnson told an enthusiastic crowd of transit advocates who gathered at Union Station. “We are on schedule for 2015 and we will be riding streetcars in 2015.”
Johnson and others were reacting to the Kansas City Election Board’s announcement that the special taxing district had passed by a vote of 319-141.
Mayor Sly James thanked voters for moving Kansas City closer to fixed rail than it has been in decades.
“Because of their efforts, we are closer than we have ever been to bringing streetcars back to Kansas City,” he said in a prepared statement. “Advocates for the downtown modern streetcar are tired of talk and ready for action on this issue.”
The election board certified the ballots Wednesday from an unusual mail-in election featuring only registered voters living within the boundaries of the proposed downtown taxing district. Those boundaries generally encompass the River Market, the Downtown Loop and Crown Center.
The vote affirmed the district’s creation and established the maximum property and sales taxes that can be imposed on downtown residents, commercial property owners and business customers.
“I’m very pleased,” said David Johnson, a downtown resident and streetcar advocate, who is no relation to Russ Johnson. “It means we can seek 75 percent of the cost through local funding. It’s the critical piece for the project.”
The city will need to hold a second election, possibly as early as Nov. 6, to seek downtown voter approval of the specific tax rates. The city is trying to refine the costs for the streetcar system before seeking that second vote.
Based on the margin of victory, both Russ Johnson and David Johnson said they’re very confident the tax rates will pass.
Regional Transit Alliance Chairman Kite Singleton, who has seen Kansas City try and fail for years to get fixed rail, was excited something may finally be happening.
“I think this is a great start,” he said, adding that it may also jump-start plans for Jackson County commuter rail.
Singleton said he thinks the MAX bus is great, but it lacks the “coolness factor” that streetcars bring, and the ability to serve as a catalyst for more downtown economic development and density.
To read the complete story in The Star, visit http://www.kansascity.com/2012/08/01/3737131/streetcar-district-approved-by.html