The transportation bill that appears to be on the verge of approval in Congress should speed the building of highways even as money for bike paths is cut.
In the Kansas City area, officials' prime concern is keeping money flowing for competitive grants for proposals such as a commuter rail system starting with connections from Kansas City to Eastern Jackson County and, complementing that system, a two-mile streetcar line from the Crown Center/Union Station area north through downtown to the River Market. Officials also are looking to local sources of funding, but it's rare for any U.S. city's transit systems to get far without some substantial federal money.
The House and Senate have hassled and haggled over a new major transportation issue for about three years. In the end, the Associated Press reports, Republicans dropped a demand that Congress go around the Obama administration and push through the Keystone pipeline project and agreed not to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the toxic ash that comes out of coal-fired power plants (that ash is sometimes used to make cement). On the other hand, Republicans won on cuts to a program to promote trails and related programs and won on shortening the environmental reviews needed for new roads. That should mean shovels in the ground more quickly.
Jackson County officials are busy this summer with a 45-day review of the area's needs -- rails, trails, buses, all of it -- as they get ready to forward to Washington their plans that are most likely to imclude commuter rail lines from Union Stattion east to Independence, Blue Springs and Grain Valley and southeast to Raytown and Lee's Summit. Even then, officials have cautioned all along, the feds could make them re-do and re-re-do their homework for a good long time before any money from Washington is forthcoming.