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President Biden's visit to KC will center around KCATA, improving public transit

Posted at 5:47 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 19:43:48-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — President Joe Biden will visit Kansas City as part of a nationwide tour to talk about the new Infrastructure Bill, a half a trillion dollar package that will funnel funding into communities for things like road improvements, clean water, public transit, clean energy, high-speed internet and more.

The President's visit to the metro will center at the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA).

Robbie Makinen, president of KCATA, said public transit should be weaved into the community fabric.

"Public transit is no longer about taking someone from A to B. It's about access and options for people who need it the most," Makinen said.

Makinen will talk with Biden about how the Infrastructure Law will support projects that are already in the works to improve accessibility and transportation.

KCATA is working to convert its entire bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles. Bus fare is also now free.

The agency also said it wants to build out a bi-state bus line that would go from Independence to State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas.

KCATA also launched Ride KC Navigator, an app that helps visually impaired people safely ride the bus.

The money will help KCATA pay for improvements for curbs, sidewalks and Americans with Disabilities Act ramps.

"It's that one thing that connects all the dots, whether it's access to jobs, healthcare, housing, education," Makinen said. "Public transit is a piece of that, people are starting to see that."

Most of the funding in the infrastructure bill is going toward road improvements and transportation.

"For roads and bridges in Kansas statewide, you're looking at $2.8 billion of federal money and on the Missouri state it's about $7 billion," Ron Achelpohl, Director of Transportation and Environment for the Mid-America Regional Council, said. "For public transportation, it's about $272 million in Kansas and about $674 million in Missouri, so pretty significant numbers."

Achelpohl said the infrastructure package lines up with goals outlined in the Mid-America Regional Council's Connected KC 2050 plan. Prior to the bill, they said they weren't sure how to pay for improvement projects.

"The additional funding will allow MoDOT and KDOT to make some other investments in modernizing some of the segments of our highway in the metro," Achelpohl said. "It'll also provide new opportunities to advance public transportation and active transportation, bicycling and walking — those are all really important parts of the transportation system that we feel have probably been under-invested in for the last several decades."

MARC estimate that every billion dollars invested in infrastructure generates between 13,000 and 27,000 jobs.

"This is such a significant long-term investment in American infrastructure in our lifetime," Karine Jean Pierre, White House Deputy Press Secretary, said. "What our job is going to be is to make sure we help governors and mayors and tribal leaders access that funding and support they need to quickly move these projects — put shovels in the ground."

The funds should be available in 2022 and the package covers transportation and road projects for the next five years.