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'We're Rolling,' Kansas City Streetcar Project Receives Another Multi-Million Dollar Grant Within A Month

Chris Haxel
KCUR 89.3
A $14 million federal grant will find the majority of the cost to build a half-mile extension of the streetcar to Berkley Riverfront Park.

The announcement comes just over two weeks after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $50 million grant for a southbound extension to the University of Missouri- Kansas City.

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority has announced a second major federal grant in recent weeks, this time for a northbound extension of the downtown line.

In a notification to congressional offices, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $14.2 million award under a program called 'The Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant' to extend the streetcar line a little more than half a mile to the Berkley Riverfront.

This announcement comes on the heels of another major grant. Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Authority announced 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.

“It’s huge, we’re rolling. We couldn’t be more excited about building the north-south extension at the same time,” said Tom Gerend, Executive Director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.

“It’s a good signal for what we’ve done in Kansas City … so bigger and better things are to come. It’s exciting.”

In a statement, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said he has met with administration officials throughout his year in office to advocate for Kansas City’s infrastructure and transportation needs.

“And, I appreciate the U.S. Department of Transportation’s continued recognition of Kansas City’s commitment to providing free public options to all of our residents,” Lucas said.

A map of the streetcar line with the proposed north and south extensions.
KC Streetcar Authority
A map of the streetcar line with the proposed north and south extensions.

The $14.2 million grant represents about 75% of the $20 million total cost of the northern extension, which would take the streetcar to the Berkley Riverfront Park.

The other $5 million is expected to come from the economic development agency, Port KC.

While the northern extension isn’t as far along as the $350 million southern expansion, the project’s smaller size means it could open at the same time – or even earlier – than the southbound line.

Gerend says the northbound extension, although smaller, helps to complete the backbone of the streetcar.

“And [it will] provide a really important connection between what’s really a growing and disconnected riverfront right now, to the really vibrant downtown core,” Gerend said.

The project has previously been denied federal funding. Gerend says an east-west expansion of the streetcar could be possible once the north-south line is completed.

The other project, a planned 3.5-mile extension would bring the streetcar line along Main Street from downtown to UMKC.

The $50.8 million award announced in August will allow the project team to advance final design and enter into the construction phase. 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.

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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