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KC Mayor's Race: Light Rail

By Steve Bell

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kcur/local-kcur-574687.mp3

Kansas City, MO – Both Alvin Brooks and Mark Funkhouser say they will honor the voters' wishes and develop a workable light rail system but both say that any final light rail plan will be different from the Clay Chastain proposal voters approved.

Funkhouser says the first step is to secure regional consensus. Alvin Brooks says the first concern is how many federal dollars might be available for light rail here but acknowledges the importance of a regional plan.

Both candidates say a major drawback of the Chastain plan is that it would rely on sales tax revenues that provide 40 percent of funding of the existing Kansas City bus-transit system. Neither proposed a specific way to replace those dollars, but both said they must be replaced.

The two candidates have different views on what it takes to make a light rail system successful. Alvin Brooks says the focus must be providing transportation where the most people need and will use it. Mark Funkhouser says the system must have community-wide support, and will fail if it is seen as a poor people transportation system.

Transit specialist Mel Henderson of MARC says the Area Transit Authority has put in a request for federal funds for an alternatives analysis, the required first phase of getting federal participation. Completing that study is expected to take two to three years.

The mayor to be elected this month will still be in office... though nearing the end of his term, and will have major input on the future of light rail in Kansas City.

The only substantial difference in the candidates' rail priorities involves the method of selecting the route and terminal points.

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