Kansas City’s plans for a MAX rapid bus service on Prospect Avenue recently got a boost from the federal government.
The federal agency overseeing mass transit projects across the country has given the green light to the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to move Prospect MAX planning into project development.
“It’s a very positive action by the Federal Transit Administration,” said Dick Jarrold, the KCATA’s vice president for regional planning and development. “It puts us in the pipeline for consideration for funding.”
The project development determination does not itself commit any money, Jarrold acknowledged. But it does signal that the federal government believes the project has merit and is the first official step toward securing federal dollars to build the project.
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It allows Kansas City’s bus agency to track development expenses and to seek reimbursement if the proposed MAX route gets subsequent federal approval.
Kansas City already has popular MAX rapid bus lines on Main Street and Troost Avenue.
MAX means enhanced amenities such as frequent and faster service all day and into the night, covered transit stations rather than just a bus stop sign, and better passenger information with real-time signage. The buses also have wider windows and more aisle space.
Planners hope to expand the system to Prospect Avenue between downtown and 75th Street in the next few years. Prospect is the bus system’s second-most heavily traveled route after Troost.
The Prospect MAX could ultimately run about nine miles and cost up to $54 million, although this next planning phase will help refine costs, Jarrold said.
The agency will spend about $650,000 in already-committed federal and local funds on this next planning phase, which includes preliminary design and completes the environmental analysis.
Transit officials will meet with the transit administration in Washington this week, and if the discussions are positive, as Jarrold expects, the agency will apply later this month for a $30 million federal small-starts grant for the Prospect MAX.
The city and KCATA would provide a local match of about $15 million over several years, and the agency also hopes to get about $8 million in federal surface transportation funds, Jarrold said.
If all goes well, the system could be constructed and operational by the end of 2018, he predicted.
The KCATA sees Prospect MAX as one of its most promising investments, said its president and CEO, Joe Reardon.
“We’re excited about it because it’s obviously going to be an advancement in the way that we have mass transit deployed along the corridor,” Reardon said. “But we also believe it can be a component to enhance economic development and investment in the corridor.”