Downtown streetcars soon to run, along with political choices

A panel briefed the city council on streetcar progress.

A panel briefed the city council on streetcar progress.

The downtown streetcar system is on schedule, under budget and will be running early next year, officials reported Thursday to the city council.

It is already a success, Mayor Sly James said, and get ready for a popular effort to take an extension down Main Street to UMKC.

But James said he would not on his own support taking extensions elsewhere after the loss in the last rail extension election because of voters on the east side and the northeast.

“If they want it,” he said, “they’re going to have to ask.”


Economic development statistics reported to the council.

Councilman John Sharp said that will happen after the downtown line begins.

“It won’t be us telling the neighborhoods you really ought to have this,” Sharp said, “it will be the neighborhoods saying we really want this.”

Councilman Russ Johnson, a leader in the streetcar effort, said supporters should remember it will take from 2011 to 2016 to get the downtown line operating, the shortest time in the nation for such a project.

“The day you start,” he said, “add six years.”

Meanwhile, officials reported Wednesday, there is already $1.3 billion in development projects underway, done or planned downtown near the line.

“I don’t think people understand the power of what is going on and what this is doing to our city,” James said. “I don’t think it’s any coincidence that surface parking lots along Main Street are disappearing….”

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