The Missouri General Assembly has passed enabling legation allowing the Kansas City region to consider a regional sales tax to fund new trails, greenways, and bike routes. A similar regional tax in St. Louis has funded significant progress in their trail and bike lane networks. House Bill 1504 allows the Jackson County Legislature to ask voters to approve a sales of one tenth of one percent. Voters would still have to vote in favor of the tax.
What is MetroGreen?
MetroGreen is a regional vision for a multi-county network of trails, greenways, streamway corridors, open space linking the region's parks, natural areas, and cities. Existing parts of MetroGreen include trails like Mill Creek, Line Creek, Trolley Track, and Little Blue Trace. The network is being built very slowly with a patchwork of local, state, and federal funds.
What can a MetroGreen tax do?
A new trails district will accelerate the development new trails, one of the top priorities across several surveys of metro residents. A dedicated and stable funding source will finally allow Kansas City catch up with trail-blessed cities like Minneapolis, St. Louis, Des Moines, and Denver. MetroGreen funding could help build things like a Trolley Track Trail connection to Downtown, the final piece of the Katy Trail to KC, the Blue River Trail, and more.
It's not just for building trails
MetroGreen funding could also be used to build on-street bike lanes or sidewalks connecting neighborhoods to the trails, and educational and recreational programs. 45% of the tax revenue stays in the MetroGreen district for regionally-significant projects, 45% goes back to cities for local projects, and 15% goes back to counties.
Starting in Jackson County
HB 1504 only allows for this regional district to formed in Jackson County, but Clay, Platte, and Cass could be added later. State legislators from the Northland opposed the bill for various reasons, including the fact that Clay and Platte Counties already have taxes in place to fund trails. Jackson County would have formed the bulk of any multi-county district, bringing in $8 million a year vs $2 million a year from Clay and Platte.
What about Kansas?
Local state legislators and city councils on the Kansas side have not yet been willing to consider a bi-state district or even a separate Kansas-only district. Johnson County already has a property tax for trails, so Wyandotte and Leavenworth Counties will be the only metro counties without dedicated funding for trails and bike routes.
First we need Governor Nixon to sign HB 1504. Please email and ask him to do so. Then the Jackson County Legislature needs to put the tax before voters at a future election. November 2012 would be the first opportunity to do this. Commuter rail is already expected to be on the ballot in November, so we don't yet know if the county would be willing to put both tax questions up for a vote at the same. There may be some opportunities for the two to compliment each other.
You can help by becoming a member of BikeWalkKC. We rely on members like you to support our work advocating for better bicycling and walking in the KC region.
Special thanks to the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation for advocacy and lobbying support in Jefferson City, as well as much of the information in this article.