Editorials

Kansas City’s streetcar budget is running on schedule

Workers installed the first streetcar stop at 16th and Main streets in late April in downtown Kansas City.
Workers installed the first streetcar stop at 16th and Main streets in late April in downtown Kansas City. Kansas City Star

In May 2012, about three dozen people strolled along a proposed 2.2-mile route for Kansas City’s downtown streetcar line. “This is the closest we’ve ever been,” supporter David Johnson said of the long-discussed project. “It’s very doable.”

Three years later — after voters passed downtown sales and property taxes to support the transit plan — workers have repaired or replaced underground utilities, put rail in the streets and are now installing overhead power lines.

And the project’s cost is still expected to be just over $100 million — exactly what proponents predicted in 2012.

That should be comforting news for the public, which has been fed a consistent and longtime rumor that the city’s streetcar system is the most expensive in the nation.

A national streetcar lobbying group recently debunked that line of attack.

The Community Streetcar Coalition said the cost of building Kansas City’s streetcar line was more than in Portland, Ore., but less than in Tucson, Ariz., and Cincinnati.

Kansas City did register the highest cost per vehicle — just barely more than Tucson and Cincinnati — for equipment that reportedly will be wider and have extra features.

The income side of the ledger is positive, too. The sales tax brought in about 20 percent more revenue than expected the first year, while property tax estimates were on target. Overall, the project remains on budget and close to its long-predicted opening to the public in early 2016.

Officials at City Hall and with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority must maintain this disciplined approach. If the 2.2-mile route is a big success, that could help propel an extension toward the Country Club Plaza.

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