Government
4:18 am
Fri August 8, 2008

Regional Rail Rout: Kansas City Is Not Unique

A bi-state light rail approach seems unattainable in the short term, so Kansas City's mayor has brought in colleagues from other states to coach.

Mayoral caucuses of the kind sought by Mayor Mark Funkhouser are in place in Colorado and Greater Chicagoland to lobby for state and federal backing on transit, air quality, water issues and crime. The transit issue got a lot of attention.

Kansas metro-suburban leaders aren't taken with Funkhouser's transit plan, and it was tough enough getting a lot of support on the Missouri side.

Jeffery Schielke of Batavia, Ill., hears a familiar tune. In his words, "I'm not so sure that we're not behind Kansas City in this.We'll watch with great interest what happens here because Chicago is facing that particular issue of crossing these state lines."

Schielke says Chicago's greatest needs for light rail are in six outying counties which do not have a special sales tax in place to finance it. Kansas City voters have such a tax issue in November. Mayor Funkhouser proposes gathering a caucus of mayors in the Missouri region to present a united front when applying for federal funding. The light rail issue going before Kansas City voters in November will cost some $815 million. Backers hope to get fifty percent federal funding.