Government & Politics

Local transit group advocating streetcar expansion endorses Chastain’s ballot measure

Don’t write off Clay Chastain and his latest maverick Kansas City ballot measure just yet.

The Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance, which is advocating for streetcar expansion south on Main Street to the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has endorsed Chastain’s measure, Question 2 on Kansas City’s Aug. 8 ballot.

Chastain gathered sufficient petition signatures to place a measure on this summer’s ballot. It’s his 10th petition initiative in 20 years, and it’s a bit more modest than some of his other plans that sought to redirect existing bus money.

This time, he is seeking a 3/8-cent sales tax increase for 25 years to help pay for what he’s calling a “hybrid” rapid rail system in its own right-of-way. His proposed route would run about 25 miles, from Vivion Road in Kansas City, North, to the Kansas City Zoo in Swope Park, and with an eastern extension to the Truman Sports Complex.

Chastain, who lives in Virginia and is no longer a registered voter in Kansas City, has no campaign and no website. Critics have argued his tax doesn’t raise nearly enough money to fund his proposed system, even with the potential for federal funding. City Council members have said they would have to consider whether the plan can really be implemented, if it gets voter approval. If it can’t be implemented, the council could repeal it.

But the transit alliance argued that Chastain’s proposal “includes a scope of work that can be scaled to available resources, assuming federal funds are made available, through a ‘build what you can’ caveat that would allow progress to continue in reasonable phases.”

The transit alliance sees Chastain’s plan as a good antidote to Question 1 on Kansas City’s Aug. 8 ballot. Question 1 is a petition initiative from streetcar opponents who seek to prohibit Kansas City from doing any planning or implementing any rail expansion without a citywide vote of approval.

The Transit Alliance is putting the bulk of its support behind an effort to create a streetcar taxing district from downtown to UMKC. Mail-in ballots to create that district were due to the court by Tuesday evening, and a vote count on that proposal is expected Friday afternoon from the Kansas City Election Board.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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