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Voters Approve Streetcar Extension To University Of Missouri-Kansas City

Kansas City streetcar advocates got a big win Wednesday, when election officials announced that the tax increase to help fund extending the line to the University of Missouri-Kansas City passed.

That means work on the $227 million project can begin in earnest.

“I think it’s going to make more people want to come to the area, I think it’s going to be easier for tourists to get around, I think the less cars and gas-fueled vehicles we have is better for the environment,” she said, adding that she hopes it’ll bring  more development in Westport between Broadway Boulevard and Main Street.

The mail-in election was limited to registered voters who live about a third of a mile from the proposed line and who applied for a ballot. Nearly 5,000 people requested a ballot, and around 3,500 were submitted.

Roughly three-quarters of those voters backed a 1 percent sales tax and special property assessment. Officials expect the taxes to raise about $25 million annually for operation and maintenance.

The vote was the final step in a complicated, three-election process that began more than a year ago.

Last August, voters approved the boundaries of a Transportation Development District, or TDD, the special taxing district that will serve as a major funding mechanism for the streetcar. In October, they elected a board of directors, and the third and final election secured the local funding mechanism for project.

David Johnson, who has led the push for the expansion, said the vote was a major step forward, but the extension isn’t a done deal. The next priorities are securing funding from the government and the private sector.

“That's going to be the real make or break for the project,” Johnson said.

The 25-year special property assessment applies to businesses, residents and previously tax-exempt locations, such as churches. The sales and property taxes will not be collected until the federal funding is secured, which could take more than a year.

KCUR intern Sophia Tulp contributed to this report. Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig