Officials to take lead on regional transit plan

Saturday, November 15, 2008 | 9:31 p.m. CST; updated 8:05 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 18, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Officials in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties say they will take the lead on a regional mass transit plan in wake of Kansas City's failed light-rail proposal.

They discussed the idea Friday at a regional transit meeting that was the first held since Kansas City voters rejected a sales tax increase for a light rail Nov. 4.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, Platte County Commissioner Betty Knight and Clay County Commissioner Ed Quick say they are working out details for a tri-county regional transit authority.

Among other things, they are trying to determine how a transit plan tax would work.

Sanders says the key is to be methodical and develop a plan that can pass. He says the region can't stand many more mass transit elections.

"We need to go slower, not faster," Sanders said during the regional transit meeting.

He suggested the governance structure could be worked out next year, but said the counties should move toward an election with caution.

"We have one bite left at this apple," Sanders said. "There are 50 things that have to go right for this plan to work, and only one that has to go wrong."

Knight said she wants taxpayers in each of the counties to benefit from a regional system. She noted that the failed light-rail spine didn't go into Platte County.

A combination of commuter rail, light rail and bus rapid transit has been discussed in earlier talks concerning a tri-county regional system.

Area Transportation Authority general manager Mark Huffer said he assumed a light-rail spine still would be an important piece of a regional transit system. He said the transportation authority hopes to provide federal transit officials with information on how much funding Kansas City could qualify for on the light-rail spine.

One of the questions not answered before the Nov. 4 vote was how much federal funding was available. The use of federal money could improve the chances of a plan passing.

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