Time is running out for eligible Kansas City voters who wish to have a say in this summer’s streetcar expansion election.
The streetcar expansion proposal, to extend the streetcar route from downtown on Main Street to the University of Missouri-Kansas City, involves an unusual mail-in election. And to vote in that election, Kansas City voters who live within the proposed streetcar district boundaries must apply for a ballot by May 23.
Those applications must be received by the Jackson County Circuit Court by 5 p.m. May 23. Registered voters must live generally between the Missouri River and 53rd Street and between State Line Road and Campbell Street.
There are an estimated 30,000 active registered voters living within those boundaries, but so far, the court has only received about 2,750 applications.
The applications are at www.16thcircuit.org/ballot-applications.
The map of the proposed taxing district is at www.16thcircuit.org/district-boundary-map.
People can also apply for a ballot in person by going to the Jackson County Court, 415 E. 12th St. in Kansas City, with proof of voter registration.
People can also call the court at 816-881-6671, for more information and to request an application. Janelle Jennings-Drummond, the court’s coordinator of special projects, said Monday that she will try to make special accommodations for people who don’t have internet access or have other challenges to getting an application.
The applications can be mailed back to the court, delivered in person or faxed to the court at 816-881-1461.
Both supporters and opponents of streetcar expansion have spent considerable time getting the word out about this mail-in election and the need to apply for a ballot.
The proponents’ website is kcrta.org/streetcar.
The opponents’ website is www.besmartkc.com.
The actual mail-in election will occur this summer for eligible voters who have appropriately applied for a ballot. The court will mail them a ballot beginning June 20, and they are due back by Aug. 1.
Such a mail-in election is allowed by law for this type of project. If voters support the transportation development district’s creation, there are additional steps. An election is expected later this fall to select the TDD directors. That election would be held at various polling places within the proposed district.
Then there would be a third election, this one again by mail, in early 2018 to approve the actual property and sales taxes required to help pay for the streetcar expansion.
Even as preparations for the streetcar election are underway, the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, which oversees the downtown streetcar system, and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority have already selected a team led by HDR to conduct a southern extension study. HDR and other companies on the team will study a possible streetcar extension and related bus improvements. The cost of that study, which both agencies will share, is not yet available while the scope of work is still being determined.
Streetcar Authority officials said the study is being done even before the election results are known because, if the vote is successful, an application for federal funds could be submitted by this September’s deadline. If the study doesn’t occur until after the vote, it would delay the request for federal funds for at least a year.