With federal transportation grants on the chopping block, KC Streetcar could face major setbacks

Posted at 3:45 PM, Mar 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-28 19:17:47-04

When it comes to Kansas City transportation funding, the need exceeds what's actually available. 

"Transportation is one of those things that is a public good," explained Gordon Criswell, Assistant County Administrator for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas. "Very few communities have transportation systems that actually pay for themselves. They are always publicly supported. It's important to us to have federal dollars that we can use in conjunction with local dollars to improve our transportation system for the people who live here."

That's where federal dollars from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery - or TIGER - grant program come in. Wyandotte County received $10 million to make improvements to transportation in the area.

Another example, the Kansas City Streetcar received a fifth of its $100 million total cost from such grants.

"The role of government is to provide services to the people, to all people," said Criswell. "The role of government is to also make compromises. No one gets everything they want so you have to be able to compromise for the greater good. "

Last year, the TIGER grant program awarded $500 million to transportation projects across the United States, but under the President’s budget cuts to finance the US-Mexico border wall, the money meant to improve how people get around could be made obsolete. 

"It would be very difficult for some of these types of projects to move forward and move toward construction if implementation of these funds are not available," said Martin Rivarola with Mid-America Regional Council, or MARC.

MARC received $50 million to make improvements on both sides of the state line. Wyandotte County got $10 million of it for its bus system, and the eastern part of Kansas City receive money to improve sidewalks.

"Without these funds it is possible that some of those like sidewalk improvements, transit stations, transit centers may have a more difficult time moving forward towards construction," explained Rivarola.

If Congress approves Trump’s budget, TIGER grants would be eliminated. The change would go into effect in October. And it could impact future Kansas City transit programs, including the streetcar expansion.

Eight Missouri projects have been approved since 2009 for more than $133 million in federal aid, according to MODOT. The U.S. Department of transportation's website lists four Kansas projects since 2010. That total is just over $54 million.



Terra Hall can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter:

Follow @TerraHall

Connect on Facebook: