by Alan McArthur
On Monday the mayors of Platte County met with Mark Funkhouser, Kansas City mayor, at Union Station in Kansas City to express their support for local mass transit.
The mayors of Parkville, Platte City, Riverside, Weatherby Lake, Platte Woods, and Lake Waukomis sent a letter to Funkhouser to show their support for a mass transit system to serve the entire region not only Kansas City, Mo.
“The mayors of Platte County submitted a letter to Funkhouser to show our support for regional mass transportation,” said Kathy Dusenbery, Parkville mayor. “There is no new plan, it was just to bring all of the players from the region together.”
“I think it’s very clear this should be a metro wide effort, not only Kansas City,” said Alan York, Weatherby Lake mayor. “It should include the local counties and we would support that.”
In a speech by Funkhouser, he said that the voter-approved light rail plan from Clay Chastain was “dead.” Funkhouser also said a new plan should include the Northland, Wyandotte, and Johnson counties.
The light rail plan proposed by Chastain has faced many obstacles since being approved, including funding questions and viability problems. The City Council of Kansas City is considering whether to repeal the plan or resubmit the proposal to voters in February of 2008.
The mayors of Platte County presented other cities as examples of using mass transit for an entire region instead of only one city.
“When you travel to other cities they are light years ahead of us with light rail,” said Dusenbery, “and when it comes to economic development we are going to be further behind without mass transit.”
One city presented as an example is Washington, D.C.
“In Washington, the mass transit covers the whole metro area and even covers two different states,” said York. “It works very well for them.”
Another point made by York is that a regional plan will possibly receive more federal funding.
“The federal government will look more favorably on a plan that includes the metro area,” said York. “It will make getting federal funding easier.”
The mayors also stressed that the proposed plan would have to be reasonable in order to be approved by Platte County citizens.
“Platte Countians are very progressive people,” said Kathy Rose, Riverside mayor in a speech on Monday. “I think if we can come up with a plan that’s a good plan, I absolutely believe Platte County will get behind it.”
“This is a county issue, it’s not Parkville alone,” said Dusenbery. “The point is to bring people together to discuss light rail. The only way to get anything to pass is to have a well thought-out plan and have financing for it.”
Currently Parkville is evaluating its transportation needs.
“We are currently working with Park University to do several inventories of transportation needs,” said Dusenbery. “The first is a survey of current transportation providers and the second is an inventory of transportation needs in the southern Platte County area.”
After the inventories are finished this spring, they will be taken to the county level in order to form a transportation committee, according to Dusenbery.
If a regional light rail plan is developed there is a possibility it would go through some of the cities in Platte County on the way to the airport.
“You will see that if light rail is going to be here it will go near retail centers,” said York. “It won’t go through Weatherby Lake, but it might go through Parkville or Riverside.”
Funkhouser plans to meet with more mayors from the metro area including Johnson County this week to get more support for a regional system.