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Streetcar Expansion Aimed at UMKC Students

What does it take to get city renovations up and running? The answer is public support and money. The problem is that not everyone is able or willing to pay the costs of renovating a deteriorating infrastructure from the ground up.

Kansas City has an outdated sewage system dating back to the civil war, where roads and bridges are in need of repair, and where the “blue river” is brown.

Local leaders responded to these issues and more Tuesday night during a panel discussion at the Truman Forum Auditorium in the Kansas City Public Library. Their message to the public was clear: every project comes at a cost. Recently, an 800-million-dollar bond aimed at fixing many infrastructure concerns was approved by local voters.

Repair and maintenance, however, aren’t the only issues on the minds of Kansas City’s leaders. Future project considerations include a new international airport and an extension of the recent streetcar line.

The issue of a potential streetcar expansion hits close to home for UMKC. Completed last year, the streetcar currently runs down Main Street from the City Market to Union Station. The new expansion would bring the streetcar down to UMKC’s Volker campus, with an anticipated price tag of $277 million.

The new proposal could become a major asset to UMKC. Proponents of a streetcar expansion say it could serve as a bloodstream to Kansas City, connecting students to the heart of the metro. It could take students to commercial centers like Country Club Plaza and Crown Center (located next to Union Station) cost-free.

Proponents of the expansion also believe it will reduce some traffic congestion as well as solve transportation issues for on-campus students looking to find work in the city. Additionally, students wanting to travel around the state via Amtrak could have easy access to Union Station.

The idea of an expansion, however, worries some local residents. One local leader who spoke at the panel, Patrick Touhey of the Show-Me Institute, says the streetcar might not have the impact people expect: facilitating transportation.

He may be right. Recent complaints report a lack of parking at the City Market because of the streetcar, and some people fear that the same might happen at new destinations if the extension is granted. Others argue the streetcar promotes transportation for commercial purposes only, instead of for people that depend on public transportation to work (around ten percent of Kansas Citians).

A worried couple at the discussion dissented the streetcar extension because such construction would burden them with a new tax to finance it. They mentioned their fear that the parking inflation at the City Market would also appear in their neighborhood, provoking more traffic than usual.

These constraints make some wonder if there could a better way to spend 227 million dollars on already existing public transportation services.

The need for updating Kansas City’s infrastructure has brought the idea of a streetcar expansion to the forefront of local conversations, with UMKC playing an important role in the debate going forward.

     What do you think about a streetcar expansion to UMKC? Tweet us your opinion at @University0News or sound off in the comments online at www.info.unews.com.

 

fag376@mail.umkc.edu

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