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Rep. Emanuel Cleaver unveils plan for transit line from Independence to Kansas City, Kansas

A photo of the map showing the proposed east-west transit route from Independence, Missouri to Kansas City, Kansas.
Celisa Calacal
KCUR 89.3
A photo of the map showing the proposed east-west transit route from Independence, Missouri to Kansas City, Kansas.

The project, if it materializes, would significantly boost public transit options for residents living east of Troost.

The Kansas City region could see connected transit lines running across the state line east to west from Independence, Missouri, to Kansas City, Kansas.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, and other local officials from the Kansas City metro unveiled the plan to invest in a zero-emission transit corridor on Monday at Kansas City University, east of downtown.

Spanning 24 miles, the so-called Bi-State Sustainable Reinvestment Corridor would draw on federal infrastructure funds.

The corridor matches up with the Kansas City Regional Climate Action Plan, which aims to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The plan would support transit lines along the corridor with electric buses, mobility hubs and additional pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

Cleaver did not provide details on how much federal money would be invested in the project or when the improvements would come online. Cleaver said the federal grant money would be just one funding mechanism.

“I think that we hope the community will see projects for the next 10 years, all along the corridor and around in the community,” Cleaver said.

Independence Mayor Eileen Weir, who ended her campaign for a third mayoral term last week, said she supported the plan. She said the emphasis on public safety, workforce development and accessible housing also reflects the goals of the KC Rising plan, a regional economic development initiative that was launched in 2015.

“The assets of Kansas City, Missouri, on the east side and western Independence are remarkably similar, and it has been a long-time desire for our two cities and Jackson County to leverage these resources in a way that elevates our entire region,” Weir said. “And it's thrilling to bring our vision to this point and expand it across the state line.”

Jackson County Executive Frank White said the bi-state plan would serve to connect diverse communities and neighborhoods.

“This regional plan focuses on building an east-west transportation network,” White said. “This effort alone will connect diverse communities in our region answering the much-needed call we hear too often from residents in urban and historic neighborhoods. Jackson County is committed to building a better and more equitable community for everyone to thrive.”

White said investments in the proposed corridor would increase connectivity and economic sustainability for communities along the east-west route.

Increased public transit running east to west would also connect residents to existing north-south routes, such as those by the Streetcar and the RideKC MAX service along Prospect and Troost avenues. Robbie Makinen, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, praised the corridor plan for emphasizing public transportation.

“It's not about taking somebody from A to B, it's about access, Makinen said. “It's about giving people access — access and options.”

The corridor would also give a boost to neighborhoods east of Troost Avenue. Kansas City 3rd District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson said investments in housing, for instance, would benefit residents in her district, where many homes have been demolished in recent years.

“That we’re not working in silos is the critical part … that’s so different about what we’re doing,” Robinson said. “We’re not just doing projects here and there, we’re bringing them all together.”

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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