A few weeks ago, some Kansas City Council members such as Katheryn Shields put up big caution signs about going forward with extending the so-far successful downtown streetcar line.
“I think this is not the right time for expansion,” Shields said, as she and others contended the city had other priorities that include a possible $800 million bond issue next April.
But supporters at the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance are still going forward with a process that could lead to an election in summer or fall of 2017 to finance a $227 million proposed expansion.
It would go along Main Street from the current ending at Union Station through midtown and the Country Club Plaza, finishing near the University of Missouri Kansas City.
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Even if built, it wouldn’t open until around 2022.
On Thursday, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge J. Dale Youngs will hold a public hearing on the proposal. It will last from 9 a.m. up to 5 p.m. and could go into Friday if lots of people show up.
But will they?
Certainly some people who live close to the line might. They could be paying higher property taxes if the system eventually is expanded. And shoppers could be paying higher sales taxes at shops and other establishments that are in areas close to the extension.
Dan Coffey, leader of Citizens for Responsible Government, issued a statement this week saying, “The petition KCRTA and associates will present to the judge should never see the light of day. It is vague and ambiguous; the judge should throw it out. It does not contain a true picture of the total costs of this project....
“Some at City Hall and 50 or 60 civilians are behind this proposal. If it passes they will obligate the entire city to hundreds of millions of dollars in the future. The judge should stop this now. It is taxation without representation!”
But backers of the line also likely will be at the public hearing Thursday. They can point out that the initial 2.2-mile line has been hugely successful — so far — in moving a lot more people than originally expected.
Whether that positive outcome could continue another 3.5 miles or to the south is an open question.
Certainly that’s one of the prime areas to go, based on the number of housing units and commercial property along and near Main Street. And connecting the River Market, downtown, midtown and the Country Club Plaza could make a tremendous amount of sense.
It also will be interesting to see what kind of information Judge Youngs is looking for, because he has to rule whether the petition filed by supporters meets state statutes. Proponents want to form a transportation development district that could be used to expand the streetcar system.
Only voters living within the district could vote on the higher taxes in 2017.
So step up, Kansas Citians. Pro or especially con, it’s time to say whether you’d like the streetcar line extended down Main Street.