Light-rail advocate Clay Chastain absentee votes in Kansas City

Transit activist Clay Chastain made one final pitch Monday for his sweeping light rail petition initiative, Question 3, on the Kansas City ballot. He then got in line to vote absentee at Union Station, before heading back to Virginia, where he liv
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Transit activist Clay Chastain made one final pitch Monday for his sweeping light rail petition initiative, Question 3, on the Kansas City ballot. He then got in line to vote absentee at Union Station, before heading back to Virginia, where he liv
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Elections

Clay Chastain’s Kansas City light-rail plan fails with voters

By Lynn Horsley

lhorsley@kcstar.com

November 08, 2016 08:41 PM

As they have many times before, Kansas City voters on Tuesday rejected transit activist Clay Chastain’s light-rail plan and proposed tax increase.

With nearly all precincts reporting, Kansas City voters opposed Chastain’s latest vision for a light-rail system from Kansas City International Airport to south Kansas City. The margin was 60 percent against versus 40 percent in favor of the plan, in unofficial results.

“Kansas City’s future has dimmed,” Chastain said Tuesday night. “The car remains king, and light rail remains a dream.”

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Chastain said this would be his last attempt to persuade Kansas City to implement light rail.

“Even though I disdain the outcome, I will accept the outcome and not try again,” he said.

This was Chastain’s ninth Kansas City petition initiative in 20 years, and all but one of those failed with voters. The one that passed in 2006 did not involve a tax increase and instead reallocated an existing bus tax. The Kansas City Council repealed the measure, calling it unworkable.

This time, Chastain proposed a 40-mile light-rail and electric bus system from KCI to the Cerner Corp. campus near Bannister Road with an east-west spur from Union Station to Arrowhead Stadium.

To help pay the estimated $2 billion cost, he sought voter approval for two new sales taxes totaling three-eighths of a cent, starting in 2017 for 25 years. He also proposed redirecting an existing three-eighths-cent sales tax from the buses to his system for 25 years, starting in 2024.

Chastain had predicted he could accomplish his plan at a cost of $45 million per mile. Besides local funding, Chastain anticipated a 50 percent federal match, or about $1 billion.

Chastain had a website, KCLightRail.org, but no campaign committee or funding. He moved out of Kansas City in 2001 and did little campaigning from his home in Bedford, Va.

Kansas City critics, including the Regional Transit Alliance, had numerous objections. They argued that Chastain greatly underestimated actual costs and the system could never be built as envisioned.

Kansas City voters considered two other minor ballot measures. Voters by a wide margin supported the removal of 2.6 acres east of Lister Avenue and south of Linwood Boulevard from city parkland for possible use by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. They also supported the removal of 1.2 acres of land south of 23rd Street and west of Flora Avenue from parks use for redevelopment by a church.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @lynnhorsley