Kansas City will not receive a coveted TIGER grant, a $25 million federal grant that would have helped to fund a $100 million downtown streetcar project.
Despite the setback, Kansas City streetcars seem to have a future. In the second portion of Up to Date, we talk about this new development with Russ Johnson (KC Councilman, 2nd District) and David Johnson, a blogger on KCLightRail. We'll ask what's next for the project, the new challenges for the KC streetcar plan in the absence of federal funding, and potential impacts for taxpayers.
Russ Johnson is the council member representing the Second District, in-district. He was first elected by the voters of Kansas City’s Second District in March 2007, and he was re-elected in March 2011. He currently serves as Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. A strong commitment to fiscal discipline, infrastructure improvements and better City efficiency in providing good customer service and basic services are hallmarks of Russ’s service to Kansas City. He has worked on transportation issues for several years, and has pursued innovative financing mechanisms to move local and regional projects forward. Russ’s guidance helped the City receive more than $40 million dollars in federal economic recovery transportation funds. These awards included a $25 million TIGER grant, the eighth largest such grant in the country. Russ also effectively pursues transportation improvements within the Second District. He has led the effort, working with City staff, the Missouri Department of Transportation and private property owners, to find a solution to the traffic congestion issue on N.W. 64th Street at I-29. This included commercial property owners’ agreement to participate in a plan for a private transportation district. It is solutions such as this that serve as a model for the types of private-public partnerships that Russ emphasizes, in which private entities and government come together to solve problems in a cooperative way. Serving as a city councilman is just the latest in a long series of roles that Russ has played while serving the public. Prior to his first term, he served on the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC), which is charged with soliciting public input and providing recommendations to the Council with regards to the City’s capital budget. In 2007, as a councilman, Russ co-chaired with Councilwoman Cindy Circo the City’s efforts to renew the capital improvements sales tax, which voters overwhelmingly approved with nearly 79 percent of the vote. The passage of the 10-year extension to the 1-cent tax demonstrates Kansas Citians’ support for the capital planning efforts and the PIAC process. Additionally, Russ is a strong supporter of trails in the metro region and in the Line Creek Valley. He also co-chaired the Steering Committee for the Line Creek Valley Development Plan, which won the Plan of the Year Award from the Missouri American Planning Association in 2008. Russ continues to promote regional trails as a part of recreational opportunities in the metro area. Russ served as a member of the National League of Cities Transportation Infrastructure and Services Steering Committee, and served as a charter member of the National Multi-Modal Transportation Steering Committee. Locally, he has served on the board of directors for the Citizens Association and the Downtowners. He was also a member of the Centurion’s class of 2003. Russ earned his bachelor’s degree in 1991 from the University of Nebraska and his master’s degree of business administration from Park University in 2004. Additionally, Russ studied international economics at Oxford University. A father to three daughters, Russ is a member of St. Therese Catholic Church, and resides in Clay County.