The Kansas City Council on Thursday formally approved further study of several corridors as the next phases for a citywide streetcar system.
The council identified the top priority streetcar corridors as:
• Main Street to 51st Street or even farther south along the Country Club right of way.
• Independence Avenue east for several miles.
• Linwood Boulevard or 31st Street east for several miles.
It also called for more detailed analysis of Southwest Boulevard and 18th Street for enhanced bus transit to connect to the streetcar.
The evaluation, which should be completed by April, would set the stage to build the next 8 to 10 miles of streetcar line over the next decade.
Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo and other council members said they have been struck by the public’s enthusiasm about extending the streetcar system, even before construction begins on the downtown starter line from River Market to near Union Station.
“This really is a grass-roots effort, coming from the community up,” Circo said.
Leaders of neighborhoods in far south Kansas City enthusiastically endorsed the proposals at Thursday’s meeting, even though they wouldn’t initially be close to any streetcar stop. They said that as it expands, a streetcar system will be a wonderful way to knit the disparate parts of the city together.
City officials said any streetcar system would be part of a larger transportation network that would also be linked together by buses, including the Troost MAX bus rapid transit. The council’s resolution also expressed support for studying the potential of a 7-mile Prospect Avenue MAX, extending out to 85th Street.
A 10-mile streetcar expansion is projected to cost as much as $400 million, and the funding method is not yet set.
“This is a work in progress,” attorney Doug Stone, a legal adviser on the project, told council members Thursday.
The hope is that federal and state dollars and other money could provide half the cost. But Stone said local dollars may have to cover up to 50 percent of the cost.
He said it might require a sales tax increase south of the Missouri River and some type of property tax assessment for the residents and businesses closest to the streetcar lines. Those new taxes would require voter approval, and an election could be held as early as next year.