Heavy Constructors won't oppose light rail

Light-rail supporters scored a political victory today — sort of.

The big contractors are going to sit this election on the sideline. The Heavy Constructors Association of the Greater Kansas City Area is going to remain neutral, said Ed DeSoignie, the group’s executive director.

“City elected officials have assured us that, should this plan be approved, it will not negatively impact the city’s other capital maintenance programs,” DeSoignie said in a statement released shortly before 2 p.m. today.

“They have reiterated their intent to aggressively address the city’s ongoing deferred maintenance backlog. Based on these assurances, the Heavy Constructors Association’s Board of Directors has decided to remain neutral.”

Light-rail supporters had been eying the heavy contractors in recent weeks, especially with their history of opposing light-rail initiatives. They have opposed every other rail initiative, including the city-sponsored rail plan in 2001.

In 2001, the heavies gave $70,400 to light rail opponents.

But the heavies aren’t without their concerns.

They believe there are “many unanswered questions regarding funding for light rail and its ultimate effect on the city’s finances, and the lack of a regional transit plan,” DeSoignie said in this statement.

“Supporters and opponents of the ballot issue have strongly held opinions on the need for and results of a light rail system in Kansas City. It is now up to the voters to decide whether the plan best serves the city’s long-term interests.”

Earlier this week, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce reversed its position on light rail when it endorsed the three-eighth cent sales tax to pay for the 14-mile, $815 million starter line.

The chamber’s lack of support in 2001 was seen as one of the critical reasons why the city-sponsored light rail plan failed back then.