Government & Politics

Prospect MAX bus line gets green light from city, but federal funding uncertain

The Kansas City Council endorsed local funding Thursday for a Prospect MAX rapid bus service, but the federal funding under the Trump Administration remains in doubt.
The Kansas City Council endorsed local funding Thursday for a Prospect MAX rapid bus service, but the federal funding under the Trump Administration remains in doubt. Kansas City Star file photo.

The Prospect MAX rapid bus system would be built from downtown to 75th Street, under an agreement that the Kansas City Council green-lighted Thursday, but funding doubts persist.

“This agreement is very important,” Dick Jarrold, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s vice president for regional planning and development, told a council committee Thursday before the final vote. “We are ready to proceed forward with this project.”

Jarrold said the long-awaited project is in final design and, with the needed funding, can begin construction next year. It could begin service in the latter part of 2019.

But that depends on a $30 million federal appropriation this year. If it doesn’t happen, the Trump administration has recommended eliminating the transit program that provides those federal dollars

The city and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority have spent years advocating for the nine-mile Prospect MAX rapid bus line that would run from 12th Street downtown to 75th Street and Prospect Avenue.

It is expected to cost $54 million, including $8 million in federal funding already received. The project still needs $30 million from the federal Small Starts Transportation Program, $12.5 million from Kansas City municipal government as the local match, and $3.5 million from the KCATA.

The agreement that the City Council authorized includes the $12.5 million local match. But it’s not assured either. The local match is expected to come from an $800 million bond package that voters still need to approve at an election April 4.

The federal funding for the Prospect MAX was included in President Obama’s recommended budget for 2017 but has not yet been appropriated.

Jarrold said the bus agency is still optimistic about getting that appropriation before the end of this fiscal year in September. City Councilman Jermaine Reed agreed that Kansas City’s congressional delegation, both Republicans and Democrats, are very supportive of the project and the funding.

But if the federal money doesn’t materialize this year, there is greater uncertainty because President Trump’s recently released budget outline eliminates the New Starts/Small Starts transportation funding in 2018.

Trump’s outline is just a recommendation, and Congress has the final say on budget appropriations.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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