KANSAS CITY, Mo.- On Tuesday, the city released a list of transportation projects they’d like to have done in the future that total $15 billion.
The biggest project on the list is a $10.5 billion 21-mile rail line from the Kansas City International Airport to Downtown Kansas City.
“It’s definitely feasible because it’s been looked at before and found to be feasible,” Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance Chair David Johnson said. “So, feasibility really isn’t the big problem. It is funding.”
Johnson said another challenge would be the fact that the rail line would go through other communities, not just the city. He says what was announced Tuesday was financing for this project, which is different from direct funding.
“Every prior proposal runs up against a problem with local funding, which the first study of light rail to KCI found in the ”70’s’70s,” he continued. “The city had an opportunity to get almost 90 percent of the project directly funded by the federal government because federal investment in transit was new at that time, so they were encouraging cities to invest by investing more of their own dollars.”
Johnson said that the project would have just required a bond sale at the time, but the city walked away from it. 50 years later, leaders are debating the same project.
“We have to do the work for them,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said when asked if the money from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) was just available to them.
Lucas said they’re forming a marriage or partnership with the department to get the $15 billion worth of projects done.
“It’s not just a direct check immediately for that,” Mayor Lucas said about that financial amount. “What you saw in the workshops that we’ve had with the USDOT and others is to say that, ‘We’ve identified $15 billion of worthy projects.’ It’s the U.S. Department of Transportation saying, ‘We see the worthiness of this,’ and now it’s saying, ‘Let’s get to work.'”
Johnson says funding has not been secured for the rail line. The full city council would likely have to approve funding for it in the future, along with getting money from the USDOT.