Monday was the deadline for public responsive pleadings to a Jackson County Circuit Court petition to extend Kansas City’s streetcar system, and by the 5 p.m. close of business, no objections had been filed.
Court officials said pleadings technically could be filed electronically until midnight Monday, but they had not seen any opposition filings.
Meanwhile, the city of Kansas City and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission have filed answers to the streetcar proposal, saying they find no legal defect or illegality with the proposed creation of an expanded streetcar transportation district or method of funding it.
“The city currently has no basis upon which to oppose the creation of the proposed district,” the city’s filing said.
But this is just the beginning of the grass-roots petition effort to expand Kansas City’s downtown streetcar line, and it faces more hurdles in court and in special elections.
A group of Kansas City residents organized by the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance filed a court petition June 9 seeking permission to extend the existing 2.2-mile, $100 million streetcar line that opened May 6 and runs from River Market to Union Station.
Supporters want to build on the momentum from that starter line and go south about 3.75 miles along Main Street to 51st Street and Brookside Boulevard, near the University of Missouri-Kansas City. More information about that petition is at kcrta.org/streetcar.
The court petition sets out proposed boundaries for an expanded streetcar district, and proposed property and sales tax increases within that district to help pay the projected $227 million cost. This project would require expanding the existing transportation development district that funds the downtown streetcar line. But it would not increase the special assessments that downtown property owners already pay for the starter streetcar route. The proposed boundaries are drawn in the one part of Kansas City, on and near the Main Street corridor, where voters have traditionally supported higher taxes for rail transit.
Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs has scheduled hearings Sept. 15 and 16 to consider the legality of the proposed streetcar taxing district. Even if people have not filed pleadings supporting or opposing the plan, they can still testify at the Sept. 15 hearing. The Sept. 16 hearing is a judicial proceeding for parties to the case who have filed written pleadings.
If the court approves the district’s creation, up to three different special elections (two of them mail-in) would be required. That process could extend into August 2017. If voters within the taxing district approve the new boundaries and the taxes, and the necessary federal funds also materialize, the expanded streetcar system could open in 2022.