Clay Chastain on Monday explained what he said was the last light-rail proposal he would ever pitch to Kansas City voters.
“This is the final up and down vote on light rail, in my mind,” Chastain said of the issue that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. “If they vote not to do it, I will accept that and consider the light-rail issue in Kansas City is dead.”
That said, the former Kansas Citian who now lives in Bedford, Va., contended his plan for a 40-mile system is “a masterpiece in urban planning” that would make Kansas City prosperous and green.
Chastain outlined the plan in the large meeting room at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. A half-dozen people attended and listened with interest.
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Chastain said the system could be built for $45 million per mile. The mechanics would include a new 3/8 -cent sales tax to last for 25 years and the diversion of an existing 3/8 -cent tax that now goes to the Area Transportation Authority bus system. That would also last 25 years after the current tax expires in 2023. If voters approve that, and the ambitious light rail plan he has in mind, the city could reasonably expect up to $1 billion in federal grants, he said.
The system would reach from Kansas City International Airport to 63rd Street, with two eastward legs to the Truman Sports Complex and to the Kansas City Zoo and the new Cerner campus in south Kansas City. He said suburbs would want to build their own connections to the system.
The ride would not be free. A trip from Brookside to the airport might cost $9.
Stops would be limited to make the trips faster and more appealing. Chastain envisions stops at the Twin Creeks development in the Northland, on Vivion Road, in North Kansas City, downtown at the Sprint Center and Union Station and at the Country Club Plaza. Those stops would connect with other destinations and bus routes by a fleet of electric mini-buses running continuous loops.
Light rail would cross the Missouri River over the Heart of America Bridge, requiring temporary stops in vehicular traffic. It would continue down Grand Boulevard, through Penn Valley Park, down Broadway, through Mill Creek Park and down the Country Club right of way. The Trolley Track Trail would remain.
Chastain said while that is his vision, the City Council would have freedom to modify the route if necessary.
“I’m not going to dictate it ...,” he said. “I won’t be a person to sit back and carp.”
Also on Monday, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors voted unanimously to oppose Chastain’s ballot measure. The board said that it takes too much money from the city’s bus system and that there’s too much uncertainty around the costs of construction and operation of his proposed system.
Chastain gathered enough signatures to trigger an election, but members of the City Council do not support his plan.
Chastain said it is reasonable for people to ask why he continues to push for light rail in Kansas City when he doesn’t live here. He said the reason is that he hopes to return here when his now-10-year-old daughter turns 18. Until then, he is under a court order to allow her to live in the vicinity of her mother. In the meantime, he hopes voters here will embrace his vision for light rail.
“We have the opportunity to build something that will catapult this city forward,” he said.
The Star’s Lynn Horsley contributed to this report.