KC Streetcar extension receives key rating, allowing project to pursue federal grant

The estimated $316 million project to extend KC Streetcar service along Main Street has passed a crucial step, the Kansas City Streetcar Authority announced Tuesday.

The Federal Transit Administration in its annual New Starts report gave the project a “medium-high” rating, the agency said. The positive rating is not a formal commitment of federal funding.

The rating, however, was a critical step to move forward in seeking a construction grant under the New Starts projects. In order to advance and be eligible for such grants, projects must receive and maintain a “medium” or better overall rating.

“This is the rating our team had hoped and worked for,” Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority, said in a news release. “The rating reinforces the success of our downtown starter line and positions our Main Street extension amongst the most deserving projects in the entire country.”

Last fall, the KC Streetcar Authority, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Kansas City sought $151 million in federal funding under the FTA’s New Starts Capital Investment Grants Program to extend streetcar service 3.5 miles along Main Street from downtown to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The federal funding would be combined with $164 million in local funding from a new voter-approved taxing district.

“The KC Streetcar has been an unqualified success, and the FTA rating bodes well for plans to extend the line to UMKC,” Joe Reardon, president and chief executive of the Greater Kansas City Chamber, said in a news release.

“We know the extension will lead to further economic development and provide critical mass transit connections for our workforce.”

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.