KC Light Rail

Your source for news and information on Kansas City’s light rail progress

Archive for July, 2007

Will Return 8/9/07

We're taking a short summer break to enjoy rail in another part of the globe. Posts will resume on Aug. 9. In the interim, please be sure to apply for the Light Rail Citizens Task Force.

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Other Crossings

A lot of pixels have been spent discussing how light rail will cross the Missouri River, but there are other crossings to consider as initial engineering gets underway. While they would have spans shorter than a river crossing, it's likely that there will be costs incurred to improve or replace existing infrastructure across Brush Creek, I-670, I-70, and the Kansas City Terminal Railway tracks. Existing light rail vehicles in the U.S. weigh from around 60,000 (Portland, San Francisco) to over 100,000 (Dallas, Baltimore) pounds each. Even if a bridge carries truck traffic, add a two or three 50-ton LRVs every 15 minutes and you're talking a lot of extra stress. Most of the above crossings would also require interaction with non-City agencies (MoDOT, etc.).

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KCATA gets Federal funding for new buses

Unrelated to light rail, the U.S. Department of Transportation released $2.64 million in funding to KCATA for 22 new buses, according to a brief from the Kansas City Business Journal. The funding was previously earmarked in the fiscal 2006 transportation bill.


On Tour with Clay

City and KCATA leaders took a ride with Clay Chastain yesterday along the official proposed light rail route that voters approved last fall. There's a lot of nay-saying, as you might imagine, but what is most troublesome is that we will have all of these issues regardless of where the route goes after it leaves the area between the Plaza and the Missouri River.

Just think about the last time you were able to make a straight shot all the way through town. Brookside? Nope, gotta wiggle down Brookside Boulevard, risk homeowner revolt by using the Trolley Trail, or shuffle over to Wornall or Oak. North of the River? There isn't one river crossing that will accommodate light rail today. The east side? Well, okay… the 2001 plan had a partial line that went down Troost, although Troost is covered in the new plan between UMKC and 63rd Street.

Regardless, the irony here is that the hems and haws over these details will be downplayed when the KCATA pitches their own revised plans beyond the River-Crown-Plaza corridor that will experience all of these issues and more.


“All The Right Moves”

While Tom Cruise may indeed be invading the Crossroads, that's not what we're posting about today. The Star has weighed in with a big pat on the back for the current administration in regards to light rail. Words like "prudent" and "deliberate" only underscore the Star's typically p-whipped stance on such matters. Stephen Colbert has your balls, KC Star Editorial Board, and you're not getting them back.

We've been pushing for the gutsy Denver approach (remember when we wanted to be like Denver?) because installing a locally-funded starter route will whet the appetite of the entire metro. By skipping the Feds and starting small, we can have something useful built in 3-5 years. Having a system that is used — and it will be used — will expedite the discussion with Kansas sooner rather than later. Why turn down Federal funds this early on? Because we're already behind the curve, and even if we do turn to the Feds it's unlikely we'd get much more than a 5-mile starter line in Phase 1 anyway, so why wait 10-12 years when you can do it in 3-5? By the time KC lays the first rail, a new administration will occupy the White House and you can pretty much guarantee a better funding situation than the one we have today.

We're big, we're capable, and it's been done before. Get with it, KC!


Chastain v. Kansas City and The Hancock Amendment

During Clay Chastain's presentation to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today there was a lot of talking — seriously, a lot — but one of the few substantive things to arise was the fundamental disagreement between the City and Clay Chastain about the City's ability to simply amend the voter-approved light rail plan without going back to voters.

For those who aren't familiar with how taxation is regulated in Missouri, we have a wonderful albatross/blessing — depending on your viewpoint — called the Hancock Amendment (also known as Article X Sections 18-24 of the Missouri Constitution). Basically, according to city attorneys, the section that concerns local governments restricts the ability of a municipality to broaden (or change, in this case) the coverage of any tax collected without going back to voters. In short, even if Chastain is no longer concerned with gondolas or a wooden truss bridge it doesn't matter… if a tax is being collected it must be used for the explicit purpose that voters approved. Would anyone care if the truss bridge through Penn Valley Park was wooden or steel or that we use overhead catenary versus underground power? Doesn't matter, since Hancock provides that any taxpayer has standing to bring a suit against the city if they disagree with a variance that does not have voter approval. Ironically, the Hancock Amendment itself was a ballot initiative.

In short, there will be a new vote to allow the City to make route and technology changes. Will Chastain attempt to sue the City before that question gets on the November 2008 ballot? Chastain provided no factual support for the advantages of using Broadway instead of Main and basically dismissed the gondolas himself, so it's likely those changes will be part of the next vote. Will voters approve an amended plan and a new tax to continue funding the existing bus system and extend the capital improvements sales tax that will expire soon?


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