KC residents invited to express whether they think the Streetcar should expand through Midtown to UMKC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The first step in Streetcar expansion involves extending the rails from Union Station through Midtown to UMKC, and the city is hosting a hearing on Thursday to feedback on whether they should pursue this expansion plan.

The hearing is a chance for residents to tell a judge exactly what they think about extending the streetcar line another 3.7 miles down Main Street.

Because the number of people using the downtown streetcar since it opened back in May continues to grow, supporters believe they have enough support to extend the line from Union station, where it currently stops, all the way to UMKC. Supporters say connecting that college campus with downtown will make it even more popular and increase the value of all the properties along the line.

"I think the downtown starter line has been more successful than anticipated," attorney Doug Stone said. "Frankly the value of that 2.2 mile line between Rivermarket and Union Station can only be enhanced by an extension not only through Midtown, although that's very important to the Plaza, but ultimately through UMKC."

But before expanding the line, supporters must first create a new Transportation Development District down Main Street through Midtown. If voters approve, sales tax in this area would go up 1-percent and property taxes near the line would also go up to help pay for the project.

"The proposal has to be constitutional, can't be illegal, has to be determined not to be unjust," Stone said. "So there are certain criteria the court has to conclude. It doesn't have to decide if it's a good idea. That's for the voters to decide."

The public hearing begins at 9 a.m., on the sixth floor of the downtown courthouse, and those that want to be heard, need to be there by 8:30 a.m., because only those who sign in will get a chance to talk.

The purpose of the public hearing is to help the judge determine if forming this TDD is legal, though supporters say the evidence they’ve already presented indicates it is.

If the judge lets the issue go to ballot, residents in the Midtown Corridor will vote on it next spring. It would also be the first of three votes to secure local funding. Then the city would have to find federal funding. If voters approve it, the process would likely take nearly six years before the extension would be up and running.