Voters Approve Kansas City Streetcar Extension District, But Hurdles Still Lie Ahead

Aug 4, 2017

A small group of Kansas City voters has approved the creation of a streetcar extension district.

Approximately 3,500 ballots were cast in the special mail-in election that was limited to people living within the boundaries of the proposed streetcar line, which would extend from downtown to UMKC. According to official election results, 2,458 voted for the creation of the district and 1,048 voted against it.

Residents living within the boundaries of the special taxing district, which includes the area roughly between the Missouri River and 53rd street, and State Line Road and Campbell, will be on the hook for special property assessments to generate funding for the streetcar.  

But any tax hike is still a long ways away. Two more special elections will follow before any construction begins — the first, which will be in-person, will elect a governing board for the district, or TDD.  After that, a third election would be held for voters to approve the imposition of the sales tax and property assessment. 

Anyone who lives in the boundaries can vote in the future elections — even if they didn’t participate in the first one. 

David Johnson is the chairman of the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance, the group behind expansion efforts. He says for the next few days, they'll throw their efforts into defeating a question in the city-wide special election coming up on Tuesday that could jeopardize expansion efforts. 

Question 1 would keep the city from planning for any construction or buying any land related to the streetcar without a citywide election. It also sticks the city with penalty of $1,000 a day for noncompliance. 

"If Question 1 were to pass, it would mean streetcar expansion as a whole would come to a complete stop," Johnson says. 

Technically a streetcar expansion could still happen if Question 1 passes, but the current plan would be effectively shut down and future efforts could take several more years. 

Next week's ballot also includes another streetcar-related question brought by Virginia-based light rail activist Clay Chastain. 

Johnson is encouraging people to vote "yes" on that measure because he believes it would cancel out Question 1. 

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3 Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.