Crumbling sections of Wornall Road and North Oak Trafficway. The new animal shelter. Spot sidewalk repairs. Prospect MAX bus.
Each of these projects and about a dozen more made the priorities list that the Kansas City Council approved Thursday for the first year of a 20-year, $800 million infrastructure program that voters authorized in April. But there were so many urgent needs that the council went above its planned $40 million bond issuance with a list that totals $44.6 million.
“What must guide us is what is ‘shovel ready,’ ” Mayor Sly James told his council colleagues before Thursday’s vote. “We need to do those things we can do first.”
James also warned the council to avoid the urge to pick glamor projects or divide spending equally among all six council districts.
“This needs to be strategic,” he said.
There was some haggling and much compromising Thursday over just which projects should make the list, and James urged the council not to “nitpick” for so long that the city loses this construction season. Even so, City Manager Troy Schulte acknowledged the city is more than a month behind schedule in moving these projects along, since voters approved the huge bond authorization April 4.
Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre said a few projects are already bid and construction can start very soon, but most still need to be bid, and the bulk of work isn’t likely to begin until next spring.
One list that was considered Thursday totaled $42.6 million and included Maple Woods Parkway and 135th Street but not Wornall Road and North Oak Trafficway. Council members Quinton Lucas and Katheryn Shields argued Wornall and North Oak deserved first-year funding, at least for design if not construction, because of their high traffic counts and poor road conditions.
But Schulte said Maple Woods Parkway should stay on the list because it leverages federal funds, and Councilwoman Teresa Loar pointed out that Maple Woods Parkway was the only 2nd District Northland project on the list.
So in the end, all those roads ended up getting some funding in the first year. And council members got a last-minute reminder that they had to include funds for the One Percent for Art program, or $440,000 for public art enhancements, which brought the total measure to $44.6 million.
Schulte said that, with the city’s good credit rating and progress in paying off some other debt, the projected tax increase won’t be more than what voters were told.
Key first-year infrastructure projects include:
▪ New animal shelter in Swope Park, $7 million. (This is half of the city’s $14 million total cost)
▪ Spot sidewalk repairs from the Missouri River to 85th Street and citywide curb ramps, $7.5 million.
▪ Kansas City Museum, $4 million.
▪ Beacon Hill roads, $3.7 million.
▪ Paseo Gateway, $3.5 million.
▪ 135th Street from Wornall Road to Missouri 150, $3 million.
▪ Prospect MAX bus local match for federal match, $2.5 million.
▪ Delbert Haff and Spirit of Freedom fountains, $1.5 million.
▪ 22nd/23rd Street, $1.2 million and Paseo Bridge repairs over Brush Creek, $600,000.
▪ Starlight Theatre improvements for people with disabilities, $1.1 million.
▪ Design of North Oak Trafficway, from Northeast Indianola Drive to the North Kansas City limits, $1.18 million.
▪ Broadway traffic signal synchronization from Fifth Street to 16th Street, $900,000.
▪ Design of Wornall Road, 85th to 89th streets, $680,000.
The council expects to issue $40 million each year, on average, in general obligation bonds. But one thing that became clear Thursday is that competition for the second-year infrastructure list will be even fiercer.
Schulte said the federal government has agreed to fund huge Turkey Creek and Dodson Industrial flood-control projects, but that means the city must come up with a $17 million local match. It will also need to come up with about $10 million for a Prospect MAX match, on top of the first-year funding. Plus it will need to provide the other half of the animal shelter funds and deal with countless other needs.
“It’s a pretty big list chunking up in year two,” Schulte conceded. “We’ll figure it out, but it’s not going to be easy.”