Future of streetcar is unclear as voters narrowly pass measure that requires citywide vote before being extended

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The future of streetcar expansion in Kansas City is now in doubt.

On Tuesday voters narrowly passed a measure requiring a citywide vote before extending the streetcar. There were 51.3 percent of Kansas City voters who approved the measure.

What’s next is most likely a lawsuit.

Just last week, those who live along the proposed streetcar route from Union Station south through the Plaza all the way to UMKC approved the formation of a transportation development district.

They still have two more votes before a southern streetcar line becomes a reality, but Kansas City voters don’t want just those who live along the proposed route to be the only ones deciding on streetcar expansion. They want all Kansas City voters to decide.

The total cost of streetcar expansion is expected to be around $225-million, and the plan is to pay for it with local and federal funding, along with higher property and sales taxes within the new streetcar district.

Voters said they don’t want the city spending any more tax dollars on streetcar expansion planning without their approval, and any city employee caught working on streetcar expansion will be fined $1,000 a day. It’s that threat of a fine that is most concerning to streetcar supporters.

The Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance said, “While a citywide election may have merit, gagging public employees and elected officials with the threat of fines may be unconstitutional and expose the city to potential litigation.”

Litigation could delay construction of a streetcar extension. Engineers have just begun the planning phase of the southern streetcar extension, which will take nine months and cost $1 million.