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$50 Million in federal funds extends KC Streetcar to UMKC

David Arbogast

The KC Streetcar is officially coming to UMKC.

The Federal Transit Administration announced Wednesday it would give $50.8 million towards the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension Project. The FTA’s grant will allow the project to advance its final design and enter the construction phase. The route will extend south along Main Street to 51st Street and Brookside Boulevard, near UMKC’s campus. 

The current streetcar line runs from the River Market to Union Station. Officials began planning an extension shortly after the initial 2.2-mile downtown route was finished in May 2016. 

“The significance of today’s federal funding announcement for the KC Streetcar cannot be overstated,” Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority, said in a Wednesday release. “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.”

The 3.5 mile extension is estimated to cost $351 million. The project team is asking for a total of $174 million from Washington, which they expect to receive, according to the release from the KC Streetcar authority. 

The remainder of the cost will be paid for locally through a Transportation Development District (TDD), which raises property and sales tax in the area along the planned extension. Voters within the TDD approved the local funding in 2018. 

The release from the KC Streetcar Authority said construction is expected to start in late 2021 or early 2022, with operations beginning in 2025. Donna Mandelbaum, Communication Director of the KC Streetcar Authority, said the streetcar will remain a free transit service. 

The new route, which is planned to end just west of where the Oak Place Apartments once stood on UMKC’s campus, would allow students and faculty free transit all the way to downtown Kansas City. UMKC administration is optimistic about the extension’s prospects for the university.

“Our community is excited about the possibilities the streetcar extension may present, said UMKC Director of Strategic Communications John Martellaro. “We are studying possibilities, such as development of a new housing-retail vision for the former Oak Place Apartments space, as part of a new campus master plan that will be developed and presented to the Board of Curators at a future date.”

Local city leaders praised the FTA’s announcement and noted the potential economic development the streetcar extension could offer Kansas City. 

“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,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas. “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.”  

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, a Kansas City Democrat, said the KC Streetcar “has proven to be a tremendous success ever since the first tracks were laid.”

“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,” said Cleaver.

Since opening in 2016, the streetcar has carried more than 8 million riders.

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