Streetcar awarded $50.8 mil for southward expansion

This rendering shows streetcars traveling on Main Street south of Liberty Memorial, heading to the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Image provided by RideKC.

Streetcar expansion is on track after the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced August 26 that the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension project will receive $50.8 million in federal funding as part of the FTA’s New Starts Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program.

The KC Streetcar Main Street Extension is estimated to cost $351 million, and the project team anticipates $174 million in federal funding to complete construction of the project.The rest will come from local funding from the Transportation Development District, which voters approved by 70% in spring of 2018.

The current streetcar line is a two-mile track beginning at Union Station and ending at River Market. The Main Street Expansion project will add an additional 3.6 miles and 16 stops from Union Station to the University of Missouri — Kansas City (UMKC). The southward expansion will ultimately connect River Market to the Country Club Plaza, providing free public transit across many of the city’s largest business districts like Midtown, Westport, the Art Museum District and the Plaza.

This map shows the planned southward expansion of the KC Streetcar route, which currently runs from Union Station to River Market. The blue line represents future construction. Image provided by RideKC.

Stops are planned for Liberty Memorial at 27th and Main Streets, Union Hill at 31st and Main, Armour and Main, Westport at 39th and Main, Southmoreland at 43rd and Main, art museums at 45th and Main, the Plaza at Ward Parkway and Main, and UMKC at 51st and Brookside Boulevard.

“The significance of today’s federal funding announcement for the KC Streetcar cannot be overstated,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority. “This federal funding will allow our team to advance final design and move into long-awaited construction, realizing a transit vision for Kansas City that has been decades in the making. Thanks to amazing support from the Federal Transit Administration, our project partners at RideKC and Kansas City, Missouri, and our extremely supportive congressional delegation, the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension Project is a go. It’s a great day for Kansas City.”

Earlier this year, KC Streetcar Authority received notice from the FTA that the Main Street Extension project was approved to enter the New Starts Engineering phase of the FTA CIG program. That approval, and consecutive progression to the final phase of the competitive federal program, positioned the project to receive the federal grant funds today.

“This significant federal grant award helps ensure this key transit project will be completed on schedule — providing thousands of good jobs to Kansas Citians along the way,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “Since becoming mayor, I have met with administration leaders in Washington and Kansas City to advocate for our community’s transportation and infrastructure priorities, and I appreciate Washington’s recognition of our city’s growth and development needs. I thank our Congressional delegation, the KC Streetcar Authority, Ride KC, and our taxpayers for their support to increase mobility and transit options for Kansas Citians.  Along with Zero-Fare Transit passed in the spring, this shows once again Kansas City’s commitment to mobility for all.”

CIG program funds transit capital investments including heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars and bus rapid transit systems. New Starts CIG allocates federal funding to large projects across multiple fiscal years.

“This financial investment by the federal government reflects the credibility of the entire RideKC regional network,” said Robbie Makinen, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) president and CEO. “The KC Streetcar Main Street Extension will be a catalyst to bringing equity in transit and spurring development, especially in a post-pandemic environment.

The KC Streetcar Main Street Extension project partnership is between the KC Streetcar Authority, the City of Kansas City, Mo., and the KCATA.

“With the overwhelming community support for the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension and the proven economic impact of the project, we were confident that the FTA would provide the necessary funding to make this extension to UMKC a reality,” said Jan Marcason, Chair of the Main Street Extension Transportation Development District.

Completed work on the expansion includes project development, identification of track and station stop locations, coordination of utility relocation, including water and sewer lines, solicitation of proposals for streetcar vehicle procurement, construction general management, and public outreach.

This fall, the city’s Water Department will begin construction on the necessary water and sewer upgrades, completing much-needed repairs to the city’s aging infrastructure.

Construction on the expansion is scheduled to begin in late 2021 or early 2022, with the opening of the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension system slated for 2025.

U.S. Rep. from Missouri’s Fifth District Emanuel Cleaver II applauded the FTA’s announcement Wednesday.

“The KC Streetcar has proven to be a tremendous success ever since the first tracks were laid,” Cleaver said. “In just four years, over eight million Kansas Citians have travelled between the River Market and Union Station free-of-charge thanks to the streetcar, with well over six thousand riders taking advantage of the light-rail system each day.”

Last month, Cleaver joined Reps. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Sam Graves (R-MO), along with Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Josh Hawley (R-MO), to request CIG funding for the project.

Cleaver said given the positive impact that the streetcar has had on residents and businesses throughout the city, he was happy to join fellow members of Congress from Missouri and Kansas in supporting the Kansas City Streetcar Authority’s recent grant application submitted to the Department of Transportation. 

“With this funding, the KC Streetcar will significantly expand its scope, reach a greater number of Kansas Citians, and make our city more far more accessible, all while boosting the local economy,” Cleaver said. “I want to acknowledge the strong support of Congressman Sam Graves in moving this project forward, and I look forward to working with him on a bipartisan basis to make sure it gets across the finish line.”

While the FTA has given initial approval for the project, there are several steps that must be taken, including FTA approval of a construction grant agreement, before the funds will be released.

In May 2020, the KCATA also submitted a BUILD Grant Application through the U.S. Department of Transportation for funding for the KC Streetcar Riverfront Extension.

“The KC Streetcar Riverfront Extension will physically reconnect Berkley Riverfront with a resident-, pedestrian-, and bicycle-friendly 0.55-mile extension of the City’s successful Downtown streetcar system – extending from its current terminus near 3rd Street and Grand Boulevard across the existing Grand Avenue Bridge and onto the Riverfront,” according to the grant application.

The application for the northern Riverfront Extension is still pending.

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