KANSAS CITY, Mo. — President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law Monday. The federal government will spend $550 billion on America’s roads, bridges, broadband, water and energy systems over five years.
The money given to the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority will go toward predominantly four things: better roads, electric vehicles, upgrades to KCATA headquarters and most importantly a bi-state, fast-transit bus route.
“It’s a real opportunity for us to come up with a national model to be able to show what we can actually do and that we can do it along not only two state lines but about five or six different cities at the same time. So it's very exciting,” said Robbie Makinen, KCATA president and CEO.
Makinen says investing in projects like this is all about leveling the playing field and taking away barriers to give everybody access to what they need. KCATA has applied for some $80 million in grants for the region that will go toward providing more access points for the 14 million riders it serves on a yearly basis.
“This isn’t just a bus going from Independence to State Avenue. It's about the community fabric of that corridor,” Makinen said. “It’s about bringing in the broadband, bringing in the housing, bringing in the zero fare, bringing all those elements into one corridor.”
The new route will run from Independence to State Avenue. It will also run through the transit center at 12th and Prospect — an information hub for thousands of riders.
“Every day, whether it's the Metropolitan Community College, whether it's the Full Employment Council, whether it's the library, every day a resource comes and sets up in that building,” Makinen said. “We talk about the four pillars of public transit in Kansas City. It’s access — access to jobs, access to housing, access to education and access to health care. And public transit hits every one of those.”
Nateona Henry, who takes RideKC every day, sees the value in a public transit system.
“I think it's really important because some people out here are homeless and stuff like that, so I think it's really beneficial,” Henry said.
For Jonathan Lowe who takes the bus to and from Independence and Kansas City, the new route will make it easier for him to get to the things he loves most.
“Without it, I wouldn't be able to see my kids and see my family in Independence,” Lowe said.
He has relied on public transportation for about a year to get to Independence as he searches for a new career path. He lost his job and his car during the pandemic.
In addition to creating the bi-state bus line, Makinen says KCATA is focusing on improving existing infrastructure.
“The second biggest one is electric vehicles. Right now 65% of our fleet is compressed natural gas,” Makinen said.
Other projects include putting cement paths down the east side of the city for better sidewalks, creating additional bus stops north of the river and resuming capital projects like making upgrades to company buildings and systems.
“All these infrastructure needs that we haven’t been able to tackle in a long time, but now that we have put such a priority on public transit and the things around public transit, these are the things that we can do,” Makinen said.
KCATA serves 14 million people each year with 34,000 trips in just one day.