A light-rail starter system can’t go everywhere. Here are some routes you may be wondering about and reasons why a broad base of community leaders and groups reject them.
Why not a route to Kansas City International Airport?
A recent public opinion poll of city residents continued to show the No. 1 preferred light-rail destination was the airport, particularly among Northlanders. But Kansas City’s airport is about 20 miles from downtown, and an airport route would likely triple the cost of light rail. That means a much larger tax increase.
"It’s not practical," said Northland City Councilman Bill Skaggs. Ultimately, Kansas City’s light-rail system should go to the airport, just not in the first phase, he and others say.
Why not go farther into the Northland, such as connecting to Interstate 29 at Vivion Road and North Oak Trafficway?
The Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s light-rail task force endorsed a Vivion-North Oak terminus. Kansas City’s failed 2001 light-rail plan had a northern stopping point there, too. But several prominent Northlanders opposed it then and still do because they don’t want that busy interchange cluttered any further.
If Kansas City’s Northlanders were given a choice between a Water Works terminus with a ¼-cent sales tax increase, or two more miles of light rail with a 3/8 -cent tax increase, many would choose the first option.
Why not build a separate, transit-only bridge across the Missouri River?
The ATA’s light rail planners have sometimes suggested a transit-only bridge. The city’s failed 2001 light-rail plan actually included one. The reasons: Traditional light rail cars are heavier, and the Heart of America Bridge connecting to North Kansas City cannot support the extra weight.
But modern streetcar light-rail cars are about as heavy as a semitrailer truck, which the Heart of America Bridge can support. Light-rail streetcars could run along a reserved, transit-only lane on the Heart of America without closing it or disrupting much traffic. Why spend upward of $50 million on a new bridge when there’s no need to do so?
Why not stay on Grand Boulevard all the way through the downtown loop and the Crossroads?
Grand makes sense to many light-rail planners. The Urban Society of Kansas City, a pro-downtown planning group, called for a Grand route. So did downtown’s Sasaki Plan blueprint and BNIM Architects’ winning entry in a light-rail design contest. Basically, the road is wide, so vehicle traffic could still easily coexist with rail.
But there are a few touchy issues with Grand. Grand is far -- one-third of a mile -- from Bartle Hall and conventioneers, a large bloc of potential riders. Plus, Crown Center closes off Grand some weekends for festivals, and the Power & Light District intends to do the same thing for arena-related festivities.
Why not go farther south, such as along the old trolley right of way through Brookside, or farther east down Troost or Bruce R. Watkins Drive?
Each of these choices has complications.
Troost Avenue is in line to receive a $24 million, federally funded rapid bus, a spiffed-up version of Main Street’s MAX. Besides, "Troost isn’t wide enough," said East Side businessman Ollie Gates. "You’d be taking too much of Troost unless you widen it."
Meanwhile, Watkins was constructed with right of way set aside for light rail, but only south of Swope Parkway. And Brookside’s old trolley right of way is now a popular walking trail that residents don’t want to give up.