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Kansas City Streetcar Gets $50 Million Federal Grant For Southbound Extension To UMKC

Lisa Rodriguez
KCUR 89.3
A $50 million federal grant means the KC Streetcar Authority can finalize a design and begin construction of an southbound extension.

Streetcar officials say the award is a major milestone in a project that has been "decades in the making."

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Authority announced Wednesday a $50.8 million grant to Kansas City's Streetcar Main Street Extension Project as part of the FTA’s New Starts Capital Investment Grants Program.

“The significance of today’s federal funding announcement for the KC Streetcar cannot be overstated,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority, in a statement. “It’s a great day for Kansas City.”

The planned 3.5-mile extension of the streetcar line along Main Street from downtown to UMKC is considered a vital step toward realizing the full potential of the system.

The KC Streetcar Authority says Streetcar will remain a free transit service.

The $50.8 million will allow the project team to advance final design and enter into the construction phase for this project. It represents only a portion of what the KC Streetcar Authority has requested in federal assistance.

The Streetcar Authority said in a statement it anticipates receiving a total of $174 million in federal funding in order to complete the construction of the project.

That represents about half of the total project cost – the other half will come from a voter-approved special taxing district near the streetcar line.

“This significant federal grant award helps ensure this key transit project will be completed on schedule — providing thousands of good jobs to Kansas Citians along the way,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas.

While advocates initially suggested the project would be completed by 2023 at the earliest, the Streetcar Authority now says it hopes to start service on the extension in 2025, with streetcar construction beginning in early 2022.

KC Streetcar Authority Communications Director Donna Mandelbaum said while Kansas City residents won’t see rails or overhead wires yet, they will start seeing initial utility work along the route, including relocating sewer lines.

“We’ve been working for years – sometimes it's hard to see because we’re doing it all on paper,” Mandelbaum said.

Mandelbaum also said they’re planning several public meetings to ensure that businesses along the extension can remain open during construction.

The 2.2-mile downtown line, which runs along Main between Union Station and the River Market, opened in May 2016. In 2019, 2.2 million riders used the streetcar.

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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