Council gets update on streetcar expansion project

Planners for extending the Downtown streetcar line spoke of the process today to a joint city council committee.

The possible seven corridors listed under consideration are to be reduced to no more than three.

Two of the corridors – along Main Street and the 31st Street/Linwood Boulevard corridor – are in Midtown.

But other studies are also looking two other corridors besides the seven – one north of the river and the other along the old Country Club line right of way, Vincent Gauthier, lead planning consultant, told the planning and zoning and transportation committees.

A country club line would roll through Midtown and connect the city to its streetcar past. It was the last line to make a public run in 1957.

The city kept rights to it and the line is now largely used for the Harry Wiggins Trolley Track Trail.

The seven-mile street car right of way runs from Westport Road to 85th Street.

Gauthier said a line there could tie the city to development planned for the old Bannister Mall area.

He also said planners will be seeking maximum input from citizens and businesses on which three lines go next, with an eye on building neighborhoods and attracting development .

“This is as much about what the corridors can be as where the streetcars can go,” he said.

Input so far is that the 31/Linwood corridor line should run all the way to the sports stadiums, he said.

Also, people say the proposed Southwest Boulevard line should go into Wyandotte County and link to the Kansas University Medical Center area.

Far more input is needed, he said, and there will be public meetings and meetings with business groups and others.

They will also use MindMixer and put up notices at bus stops that allow people to contact planners by cell phone.

“We’re trying to reach out to people who might be a little overwhelmed with the process,” Gauthier said.

Councilwoman Melba Curls said people in the 3rd district were concerned about costs and taxes and that they get benefits from any line there.

“A lot of times you might go around the 3rd district but you don’t go through the 3rd district,” she said.

Councilman Dick Davis and others said they were excited about the project and its economic boost to the city.

Davis likened the first Downtown phase of the project to the first city freeway in 1956.

The city will be adding on to its streetcar lines for the next 100 years, he said.

(Disclosure: The Midtown KC Post’s Mary Jo Draper is on the planning team for the NextRail project).

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