Mayor Sly James: Support Amendment 7 for better transit, more jobs in KC

07/08/2014 2:07 PM

07/08/2014 6:11 PM

Voters in Kansas City will be evaluating two questions that have the potential to change the way Kansas City moves on Aug. 5.

In Kansas City, all voters will be looking at Amendment 7 that would for the first time change the Missouri Constitution to support both the building of important roads and bridges and public transportation systems.

It would authorize a ¾ cent statewide sales tax increase that would generate hundreds of millions of investment in the area.

For years, the state legislature has failed to come up with a comprehensive funding mechanism for our aging infrastructure. This time it’s different.

Amendment 7 allows us to address transportation infrastructure and transit systems simultaneously and in a coordinated approach. Here’s why I think this is a good deal for Kansas City:

First — the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) was responsive to the concerns of our citizens and elected officials, which has led to a vastly improved project list for Kansas City.

The productive conversations set a blueprint for how the city and the state can work together for everyone’s benefit.

Second — there are many transportation projects of great importance to Kansas City in the north, south, east and west. Given the political climate in Jefferson City, I don’t see any other way to fund these much-needed projects in the next 10 years.

Our infrastructure would be in worse shape by then and the price tag would undoubtedly be higher.

Just to name one project, Amendment 7 will fund a replacement for our outmoded Broadway Bridge and interchange. A signature bridge welcoming visitors and residents into our city is important. Improving traffic flow daily for Northlanders is a must.

In addition, MODOT has listened to the city and is evaluating the northern loop of I-70, which currently detaches our City Market from our Downtown. Working with MODOT, we have the ability to re-imagine the northern end of our downtown and improve traffic flow, open up opportunities for economic development, and reconnect our city for bikers and pedestrians.

Third — MODOT is going to make a significant investment in our plans to expand our bus and streetcar systems within the city. The city has negotiated with MODOT so that substantial funding from Amendment 7 will support the transportation expansion within the proposed Transportation Development District (TDD) without sales taxes within the TDD exceeding the proposed one-cent increase in that district.

Voting yes on both the TDD and the statewide sales tax ensures that millions in state funding helps to support Kansas City’s transportation growth.

These coordinated plans have the potential to change the way Kansas City moves. They will improve traffic flow, make current roads and bridges safer, and help us re-imagine our northern downtown.

In addition, the plan enhances Kansas City’s existing bus service, creates a new bus rapid transit (MAX) line on Prospect, and extends streetcar lines, making for a more connected Kansas City.

Beyond the obvious need for the city to deliver on its core functions of safe transportation options, providing more transit options is good for our economy and unlocks hundreds of millions in federal matching grants for the projects.

Studies show that increased transit usage means millions for our local economy and thousands of new, permanent jobs. That’s thousands of jobs created by road, bridge, and rail work.

Add to that the private investment in businesses and housing that follows this kind of transportation infrastructure investment and you’re talking even more new jobs. The real question is — Why wouldn't we want that?

So, with that, I urge you to vote Yes on Amendment 7 and, if you live in the proposed Transportation Development District, Yes on Question A.

These two coordinated plans mean better transportation, more jobs and a more connected Kansas City.

Sly James is mayor of Kansas City.

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