The Kansas City Star reports that federal grant money which city officials hoped would subsidize part of the city’s streetcar proposal probably will not be coming after all. Higher property and sales taxes along the train’s corridor will likely remain as the primary sources of funding for the city’s $100 million rail project. However, with the federal government’s denial of funds, city officials will have to find another $25 million elsewhere. From the Star:
Mayor Sly James said today that he had not received confirmation of the denial, but strong indications are that Kansas City will not get the grant.
“They loved our application,” James said, but he added that other cities are farther along with their streetcar plans and have their local funding in place.
Kansas City is still trying to get that local funding set up. In fact, ballots go out today asking local voters to create a downtown taxing district for streetcars.
This is — and always has been — a vanity project for city officials, and the vanity continues. Not only are there plans in the works to extend the trolley to the south and east, but all signs point to the city charging ahead with the current proposal despite the apparent funding shortfall. That should put Kansas City and Jackson County taxpayers on high alert as the city starts getting creative with how it funds the project.
As I have argued, if there is a real market demand or need for a streetcar, the private sector should do it. Public buses already serve that route. With the denial of federal funding, Kansas City should take this as an opportunity to rethink whether it really needs a streetcar, or whether it would be better off saving its money for something more important.