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Kansas City’s streetcar line moves forward with $20 million grant

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A $20 million federal grant is providing the fuel to move Kansas City's streetcar line full speed ahead. Business owners in the Power & Light District say they're ready for the community to get onboard.

"I'm excited about it," said Annette Jones, owner of Zafar Salon & Boutique on Main Street. "I think that anything that enhances our city is for the best for all of us. Not just business owners but individuals that like to walk commute to downtown, this is a way."

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Fox visited Kansas City on Friday to promote the benefits of urban streetcars.

Fox is a former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, and he told a crowd at Union Station that streetcars helped transform Charlotte's downtown and attract new businesses.

The two mile streetcar line would run from the River Market to Crown Center and Union Station, mostly on Main Street. The current plan calls for passengers to be able to get on and off for free as it serves downtown, Crossroads and the Power & Light District.

The $20 million federal grant would pay for about 20 percent of the project. And Mayor Sly James is promising that the streetcars will be operational by the summer of 2015.

"This is one of 52 projects in 37 states across the country," Fox said. "Kansas City, I also want you to know, this is the biggest single project."

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, who once called a similar light rail proposal "touristy frou-frou," helped lobby for the federal grant and says he's proud of it.

He says the street car line alone still may be touristy frou-frou, but if connected to a commuter rail line, proposed by Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, it would be a good segment of a larger public transit network.

Cleaver says the county's commuter rail plan also is going to need federal money. And that's what Cleaver says he's going to be working on next.

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