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Light rail plan only offers buses to Platte

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser recently unveiled his plan for a regional mass transit system covering Platte, Clay, and Jackson counties covering 119 miles and costing about $1.2 billion.

The plan includes several different types of mass transit including light rail, street cars, commuter rail, express bus routes, and bus rapid transit.

According to a preliminary plan released by Funkhouser, there would be only about 14 miles of the mass transit system in Platte County.

The system would have 119.1 total miles with 11.05 miles being light rail, 4.3 miles of street cars, 67.2 miles of commuter rail, and 36.5 miles of express bus lines.

The system in Platte County will include two express bus lines. One will be a line along 9 Highway from the waterworks plant north of North Kansas City to downtown Parkville and also a line from Metro North Mall along 152 Highway and Interstate 29 to KCI Airport.

The two lines are listed in the document as costing $300,000 per mile, with the two segments together costing a total of $5.4 million. The yearly operating cost for both lines totals $1.26 million. The lines will also receive moderate service, meaning they may operate six or seven days a week.

The total distance of bus routes will be approximately 14 miles within Platte County. The amount is about 11.7 percent of the total mileage for the system.

To fund the system, Funkhouser is asking the three counties involved to pass a half cent sales tax, which will last for 15 years. The tax in Platte County would generate approximately $7 million countywide, which would total more than $105 million after 15 years.

Over the length of the 15 year tax the initial cost per mile and the operating cost would be $24.3 million while the county would contribute more than $105 million.

“I don't believe two bus routes are sufficient for our contribution,” said Betty Knight, presiding commissioner. “We've just supported Bombardier and this wouldn't serve those folks going to the airport.”

“The light rail doesn't even come to Platte County,” said Tom Pryor, first district commissioner. “I think this might be a tough sell in Platte County. It would be best to have the half cent sales tax for Kansas City only. Then they can run it to wherever they want.”

“The current system is different than what we were initially told and I'm disappointed,” said Jim Plunkett, second district commissioner. “I am not sure the people from Platte County will support this plan.”

When Funkhouser initially met with the Platte County Commissioners on April 7, he said he envisioned a light rail hub at Union Station with lines going to KCI, Independence and Lee's Summit.

The original plan was based on the tax running for 25 years, however, the funding has been limited since Funkhouser has discovered the tax could not run longer than 15 years, according to state statute.

Several of the commissioners believe they would not vote in favor of having the half cent sales tax on the ballot for November.

“No, not as it is at this time,” said Knight. “I don't know how a regional plan could be worked out by November. This plan does not serve Platte County.”

“I am not happy about the half cent sales tax,” said Pryor. “I do not like the tax to fund and light rail not even come into Platte County. I have a bit of a problem with that.”

“I am still thinking about this, I need to learn more,” said Plunkett. “I am not comfortable not giving the voters the opportunity to see this. But I think the current program will fail miserably in Platte County.”

Other portions of the system include a starter light rail line with a distance of 11.1 miles from Gladstone through downtown to Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard. Light rail is estimated to cost around $610,820,000. Of the total cost, a new bridge across the Missouri River is estimated to cost about $58 million.

Streetcars would run from Union Station along Main Street passing through the Plaza and ending at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The streetcars will also run along the light rail line to the River Market area. The system will cost $107.5 million.

The plan also includes commuter rail running from the River Market to Lee's Summit, Blue Springs, Grandview, and Liberty with a total distance of 67.2 miles. A cost for the rail line is $434,949,980.

Express buses will also run from Metro North Mall to Liberty along 152 Highway and a Bus Rapid Transit line will run from Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard along Bruce R. Watkins Drive to Bannister Mall. The BRT line will cost $34 million and run for 8.5 miles. The total express bus line will have a distance of 28 miles and cost $8.4 million.


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