KC to pursue streetcar line despite losing federal grant competition

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City, Mo., officials confirmed that a proposed streetcar line will not be funded by a federal TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation - but they say they aren't giving up.

The city applied for the $25 million in federal funds to help build a streetcar line between downtown and Union Station.

"We are obviously disappointed, but not deterred. Kansas City is not giving up on this project," said Mayor Sly James in a statement on Tuesday. "We can and will make this happen."

The next step for the city: Applying for a grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

The federal TIGER grant was to be the linchpin to launch the project. A mail-in election is underway right now asking downtown voters to approve a special taxing district that could provide additional funding.

Opponents worry that  losing out on the federal money will lead to even higher local taxes to pay for the project.

But supporters say they hope revised engineering plans will come in with a lower price tag that will make the project doable with almost the same local budget.

Right now, the cost of the proposal is estimated at around $101 million.

David Johnson lives and works downtown and has become a spokesman of sorts for streetcar supporters.

He said he's disappointed the city didn't get the grant, but he doesn't think the decision will change any of the supporters' or opponents' minds.

"A 'yes' vote is still 'yes,' and a 'no' vote is still 'no,'" he explained.

Johnson added that he thinks the project can still move forward, because he believes that the actual cost of the streetcar line will be lower once the engineering studies are completed.

Sue Burke is adamantly against the project.

She owns a company called KC Air Filter, which is based on Grand Street in the River Market. Her property taxes would go up under the streetcar proposal.

Burke said she's also worried about the impact it would have on her business. The line would go right past her front door - which she said would disrupt parking for her customers and cause problems for trucks trying to get in and out.

She said she's happy that the feds denied the grant request.

"It's just not right to charge people who aren't ever going to ride the stupid thing," she said.

Burke added that if city officials make changes to lower cost of the streetcar proposal that would "cheapen it up and make it even crummier."

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