Mayor Sly James' statement:
This afternoon, Mayor James was informed by federal officials that Kansas City will not be one of the grantees for this year’s TIGER IV grants.The 2012 TIGER IV program received 703 grant applications totalling $10.2 billion in requests. The USDOT awarded a little less than $500 million in this round. TIGER IV was highly competitive with 703 applications from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
“We are obviously disappointed, but not deterred. Kansas City is not giving up on this project. We move forward immediately by applying for an grant under the revised Small Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and will continue to get our local financing package firmly in place. We may not have gotten this grant, but we will keep working to make this a reality in the very near term,” said Mayor Sly James. “It is increasingly clear in today’s political and economic climate in Washington — if we want something done we will need to do it ourselves. We can and will make this happen.”
“We need enhanced and efficient transit options, built in the context of a sprawling city of 316-square-miles. With the complicated realities of Kansas City in mind, which comes first the local funding or the federal grant? This is a constant struggle for our city, and other communities. In this case, despite a very strong application, the Department of Transportation wants to see the local funding in place first. While this leaves a gap in the initial funding model, it has always been up to us to decide how to make a downtown modern streetcar work for Kansas City. We took our best shot and fell short. It just means we have to be even more creative,” said City Councilman Russ Johnson, Chairman of the City’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Planning for the downtown modern streetcar is proceeding. Ballots to establish the Transportation Development District have been mailed to downtown residents and are due July 31, 2012. Firm cost estimates for the line are taking shape and a committee has been appointed to establish the governance model. The city has partnered to develop and launch Neighbor.ly, a crowdfunding platform for the streetcar project. Discussion and strategies for alternatives to TIGER grant funding have been proceeding and now take on new urgency.
It appears that Kansas City will not be getting a $25 million federal grant to help jump-start the downtown streetcar project.
Mayor Sly James said today that he had not received confirmation of the denial, but strong indications are that Kansas City will not get the grant.
“They loved our application,” James said, but he added that other cities are farther along with their streetcar plans and have their local funding in place.
Kansas City is still trying to get that local funding set up. In fact, ballots go out today asking local voters to create a downtown taxing district for streetcars.
James said he was not surprised by the setback and “we’re not quitting.”
The competition for this year’s federal transportation grants was incredibly fierce and federal officials had said that fewer than 5 percent of applicants were expected to get the funding.
Kansas City is proposing a $100 million streetcar project, with streetcars running generally from River Market to Crown Center.
The Jackson County Circuit Court Administrator's office today will mail out 555 ballots to people who successfully applied to participate in the downtown streetcar district election.
This is a special mail-in election only for registered voters living within the proposed downtown streetcar district, running generally from River Market to Crown Center. The question is whether the special transportation development district for the streetcar project should be approved. A subsequent election may be held later this year, asking voters to approve specific property and sales tax increases within that streetcar district.
The Kansas City Election Board initially had calculated that about 6,000 people were registered to vote within the district boundaries. That included about 3,500 "active" voters who recently voted and 2,500 others who have not voted in recent elections.
Those registered voters were invited to apply with the Jackson County Circuit Court for a ballot. Just over 600 people applied, but some of those were thrown out because they failed to provide proof of registration, or failed to sign their application -- even after being notified and reminded about that failure.
The ballots will be mailed out today to qualified voters who successfully applied. They're due back by July 31. The Kansas City Election Board is expected to certify the results of this election in early August.