Kansas City streetcar plan on track with bids

KANSAS CITY (AP) — The apparent winning contractor has been chosen to build a proposed streetcar project in downtown Kansas City, even as city officials await an appeals court ruling that could determine the fate of taxes designed to help pay for the streetcar line.

A joint venture between St. Joseph-based Herzog Contracting Corp. and California-based rail contractor Stacy and Witbeck Inc., was chosen Tuesday to be general manager and contractor, though the choice must be approved by the City Council. The streetcar line will run from the River Market to near Union Station.

Meanwhile, lawyers argued a case before the Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday challenging whether new downtown taxes to help pay for the $100 million streetcar project are constitutional. While awaiting the appeals court ruling, the city is proceeding with planning, utility relocations, streetcar vehicle selection and other tasks.

“The hope is to have things in place to start construction as soon as possible,” public works spokesman Sean Demory said. “When things are resolved on the legal side, we want to hit the ground running.”

The joint venture bid was $50,000 for the construction management part of the job, with the rest of the payment being a percentage of the total negotiated construction price. If the council approves the choice, the city would negotiate a final price to build the system.

In the appeals court case, an attorney for two downtown property owners who oppose new property taxes and a 1-cent sales tax within the downtown streetcar district argued that they should be able to challenge the taxes in court. But an attorney representing Kansas City said the deadline for such a challenge has passed and the project should be allowed to move forward.

Attorney Mark Bredemeier asked the appeals court to reverse a Jackson County court ruling that his clients missed the deadline to challenge the mechanism for imposing these new taxes. The lower court also noted that the public had an opportunity to file objections in 2012, when then-circuit Judge Charles Atwell held hearings on the streetcar proposal.

Attorney Bob Henderson argued the city followed state law when it set up the special transportation district and Atwell had already resolved constitutional questions about the taxes and the special district.

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