Streetcar expansion project would extend to the Plaza, UMKC

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City's new streetcar line is fresh off its christening, and already there's talk of extending the two-mile line.

That talk isn't coming from city hall, but from a new civic group that wants the line to serve its area of town.

If this ends up happening, the streetcar line would go from 2.2 miles to 6 miles. It would include the plaza, and go to UMKC.

They would add eight more streetcars to handle the extra distance and all the people.

"I think it enhances the neighborhood. It would connect the Plaza, Crown Center, major entertainment areas," said Matt Hamel.

Matt and his wife, Adrienne, live near 50th and Brookside Boulevard, in a neighborhood near the proposed expansion path of an expanded streetcar line.

"I would use it myself to go to the Kauffman Center, for example, without taking the car out," Adrienne said.

Matt Moores owns Crows Coffee near UMKC. He likes the idea of more visitors for the area.

"I think that only does good things for the neighborhood, for less cars on the road, for the businesses, for the students who don't have cars or can't afford cars," said Moores.

If approved by voters, businesses and property owners along Main Street would levy a one percent sales tax and pay higher property taxes to pay for the project, not the city.

"Property values along the streetcar line or any other street system line go up 20 to 30 percent soon after that line is open, and so the property owners are going to see the value of the land, their buildings go up once the streetcar is in," said Jay Tomlinson, Helix and Design Architect.

Right now, the estimated cost is $227 million dollars.

"To pay into a fund that helps the streetcar become a success, which will drive more traffic to my businesses, and creates more community, I think can only be a good thing," Moores added.

The UMKC chancellor, Leo Morton, said the streetcar would help students get to campus easier.

"We'd also like to get more people coming to this campus. So the easier we can make that, the better. We have lots of things the folks in downtown can take advantage of on this campus, so this would be a great benefit in that direction as well," said Morton.

KCRTA vice chair, David Johnson, said this project could take at least five or six years, so no one would ride it until 2022.

"And so with that, I think most people agree now is the time to start this process because it takes a long time to get to the court, to get the voters, to get the city to design, to do the final design on the system and to get the federal funding and all that has to take place before a person can step on board," added Johnson.

An average of 6,400 people rode the streetcar the first three weeks -- more people on the weekends than during the week.

Supporters said they plan to keep it free to ride if the expansion moves ahead.

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