Kansas City Tells Secretary Of Transportation Why It Deserves $40 Million Federal Grant | KCUR

Kansas City Tells Secretary Of Transportation Why It Deserves $40 Million Federal Grant

May 20, 2016

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx told Kansas City leaders the transit challenge is nationwide.
Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Collaboration. Open data. Public private partnerships. Streetcars.

These are a handful of reasons local leaders today told Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx  why Kansas City deserves the $40 million the U.S. Department of Transportation will award to one city later this year.

The secretary picked on one of these points after an hour-long  pitch in which officials, community leaders and tech businesses praised the local plan. 

The streetcar, he told them, had Kansas City moving.

"The streetcar is a big deal,” the secretary said. “Getting something in the ground, letting people see it, touch it, ride it starts to tell a story about the ambitions of this community.”

Other than that, the secretary held his cards close to the vest. He did, however, lay out the need for innovative transit improvements.

In spite of under-investments leaving dangerous bridges and potholes everywhere, the secretary said federal dollars are dwindling. In the 1970's, he said the department matched local grants up to 80%. 

"On a good day (today,) there's a 50% match," he explained. "The trend line is pretty clear."

He said urbanization "is real." With the dramatic jump in people moving into and around cities, this lack of attention to transit "spells disaster." 

Tech innovators joined community leaders and transit officials to present the pitch.
Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Today’s roundtable was at the Kansas City Police Department’s new East Patrol Conference Room at 27th and Prospect. 

If the city wins the grant, one of the first things it will do is apply the same digital capabilities along the new streetcar route and the proposed MAX bus line along the Prospect corridor, said Bob Bennett, the city's Chief Innovation Officer.

The secretary's stop was the last of a tour of seven cities — all finalists for the DOT funds.

The other cities are Pittsburgh, Columbus, Austin, Denver, San Francisco and Portland.

The winning city will be announced in June 2016, according to a DOT press release.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement producer and reporter at KCUR 89.3. She can be reached at lauraz@kcur.org or on Twitter @laurazig.