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KC Streetcar Authority Receives Substantial Federal Award, Allowing Completion Of Entire Project

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Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City Main Street streetcar extension received a $174 million federal transit award. Officials say this means they have 100 percent of the money for the project.

The announcement marks the third major grant the KC Streetcar Authority has received this year.

The KC Streetcar Authority has secured full funding for its Main Street Extension Project with its third federal award in four months.

The milestone comes with the announcement of a $174 million award from the U.S. Department of Transportation through its New Starts Capital Investment Grants Program for the project, with a 3.5-mile extension of the downtown streetcar from Union Station to UMKC.

The award, which is over half of the the streetcar's total cost, is the third federal grant the extension project has received this year. In August, the Streetcar Authority received $50.8 million in federal funding for the project from the Department of Transportation Federal Transit Authority. Just a month later, the streetcar also secured a $14.2 million federal grant for a northbound extension to the Berkley Riverfront.

KC Streetcar Authority Communications Director Donna Mandelbaum says that while today's announcement is important, there are still "steps that need to be taken" to ensure the grant is received.

This includes passing a 30-day Congressional review, which begins today. The Kansas City Council is expected to accept the award tomorrow.

Mandelbaum says the award shows that the FTA sees the KC Streetcar as a "very smart investment."

"[The Streetcar] is at a very attractive part of the project," Mandelbaum says. "We have a great existing downtown streetcar, and its success plus the future economic development slated for Midtown and Main Street has definitely helped our application."

The north and southbound extensions are "building the spine" of a regional transit system that will connect to the city's RideKC bus system, Mandelbaum says.

Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend has also said an east and west expansion of the streetcar could be possible once the north-south line is completed.

The Streetcar Authority hopes to begin construction of the Main Street Extension in early 2022 and open in late 2024 to early 2025.

While construction of the project is over a year away, Mandelbaum says work will soon begin on Main Street to prepare for the extension. This includes the water department upgrading water and sewer lines along the route, with plans to break ground in January of 2021.

"All of the construction people see is related to the streetcar project, even if they don't see tracks in the ground quite yet," Mandelbaum says.

The current 2.2.-mile downtown lines run along Main Street between the River Market and Union Station and opened in May of 2016. In 2019, 2.2. million riders used the streetcar, a 5.5% increase from 2018.

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