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Voters reject expanding streetcars in Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City voters have stalled a plan to create a special taxing district to fund expansion of a streetcar line beyond downtown, soundly rejecting the proposal by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin, according to unofficial results.

Mayor Sly James said city officials will continue working to expand the two-mile downtown streetcar line, which is still under construction, but he acknowledged there is currently no plan for how to do that. The vote also means city officials will not put proposed sales and property tax increases to help pay the local share of a $515 million transit plan on November's ballot, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/X19gqW ).

"We're not going to let the starter line be the end of the line for this thing," James said. "It's ridiculous to think that."

The proposal would have added a 1-cent sales tax increase within the taxing district, plus special assessments for properties closest to the proposed streetcar routes. It also would have added a rapid transit bus line.

Opponents said the plan was too expensive and unfair to some low-income residents who would pay the tax but live too far from the streetcar to use it.

"I think people began to realize this was a boondoggle," said Sherry DeJanes, a Kansas City lawyer who led the opposition to the proposal. "Finally, the city can get back to the business it should have been doing and attend to the things that are important."

James and other supporters had said the city needed to take advantage of the Obama administration's favorable views of Kansas City's streetcar potential. Advocates had hoped after local funding was approved they could seek $250 million in federal dollars for the plan. They also argued the streetcars would bring economic development to the area, including to nearby low-income neighborhoods.

Opponents said buses were a cheaper and better option for public transportation in Kansas City.

Terrence Nash, a neighborhood activist, said Kansas City isn't dense enough to support streetcars and the city needs to concentrate on basic services, rather than "trophy projects."

Missouri voters on Tuesday also defeated a proposed three-quarter-cent statewide sales tax for transportation and highway projects, which could have brought $144 million to the city for the streetcar and rapid bus line.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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