Downtown voters approve first phase of streetcar plan

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Downtown residents have voted 69 percent in favor of moving forward with a streetcar plan.

Streetcar supporters celebrated with a victory party at Union Station.

"Thank you voters for the hard work that you did getting those ballots turned in and keeping this project moving forward," said KCMO City Councilmember Russ Johnson, who chairs the transportation committee.

Six weeks ago the city learned it lost out on a $25 million federal grant that would have kickstarted construction.

Wednesday night city Johnson said the city has identified $18 million in new grants it can get through the Mid-America Regional Council, plus seven million in savings on the project.

Some of that would come from charging utilities for relocating lines, rather than paying for it with the streetcar budget.

"With that in mind, we have closed the $25 million funding gap," said Johnson.

The ballots from the mail-in election were counted at election board offices.

Only 460 people returned valid ballots.

An additional 14 ballots were disqualified.

David Johnson is a downtown resident who campaigned for the streetcar and quickly tweeted results.

He expects the yes vote to hold up in a second election later this year to approve the actual amount of new downtown taxes.

"It says exactly what we thought- that downtowners want transit options, and they're willing to pay for them, and they're very pleased when given the chance to choose to do that," said David Johnson.

The streetcar line would run two miles between the River Market and Union Station.

The councilman says people will be riding it by 2015.

The "yes" vote sets up a transportation taxing district in the downtown area.

A second election will be held later this year to determine the exact funding and the proposed taxes. Right now, the city plan calls for higher sales and property taxes only in the district along the route, not city-wide.

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