KC Streetcar System Gains Momentum – UPDATE

 The proposed downtown KC streetcar system is rolling right along with Sen. Claire McCaskill’s recent announcement that the city was awarded a $20 million grant from the DOT to build the project.

UPDATE: U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill announced on Friday, Aug. 30, that Kansas City will receive a $20 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the streetcar project.

“This streetcar project will encourage housing, construction and business development in the city – and that iwll mean more jobs across the region,” McCaskill said.

The TIGER grant program, officially known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, targets regional and national transportation projects that are not often eligible for other government funding programs.

If all goes accordingly, a new streetcar system will shuttle residents and tourists to downtown Kansas City attractions by summer 2015. Although city officials are still waiting on an appeals court ruling to determine whether taxes will help pay for it, a contractor has nonetheless been selected to build the $102 million project.

St. Joseph-based Herzog Contracting Corp. has teamed up with Tempe, Ariz.-based Stacy and Witbeck Inc. – one of the nation’s top builders of light rail, commuter rail and streetcar systems – in a joint venture to be general manager and contractor of the project. However, the choice will still need to be approved by the city council.

“The hope is to have things in place to start construction as soon as possible,” public works spokesman Sean Demory tells the Associated Press. “When things are resolved on the legal side, we want to hit the ground running.”

Lawyers for two downtown property owners who oppose the 1-cent sales tax within the downtown streetcar district argued a case before the Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday challenging whether taxes to help pay for the project are constitutional. As they wait for the results of the ruling, the city has opted to proceed with planning, utility relocation and streetcar vehicle selection.

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority Inc. (KCSA), a nonprofit corporation established last year, will operate the system once construction is completed. A two-mile north-south streetcar route will run mostly on Main Street to connect the River Market area to the Crown Center/Union Station area, the Power & Light District and the Crossroads Art District. Other destinations it will serve include: Sprint Center, Bartle Hall, Midland Theatre and the Financial District.

The streetcar system will feature 18 stops spaced roughly two blocks apart and will utilize “sleek and modern” electric streetcars that are ADA compliant and capable of holding at least 115 passengers. It aims to “fill a long-noted gap in the city’s resurgent downtown,” KCSA says.

More than 75 percent of the KC Streetcar’s cost will be funded with local, public and private funding, it says. The primary funding source will be a Missouri Transportation Development District (TDD), which is a political subdivision of the state that will be governed by a board of directors. The formation of the TDD, and also the implementation of a TDD tax to help fund the KC Streetcar project, were approved by registered voters residing within the boundary of the TDD, KCSA says.

According to, this won’t be the city’s first electric streetcar. As a matter of fact, the world’s first electric trolley was invented and operated in Kansas City by John C. Henry in 1885. It was phased out in 1959.