Ground broken for downtown streetcar route

streetcar shovel

Workers in hard hats walked through a crowd where people chanted “Move that street” and exchanged high fives with them.

A backhoe blade soon scooped asphalt and dumped chunks into a big truck. Noise, dust, drama.

So began the official start of construction today for the 2.2-mile downtown streetcar system. It is expected to be operating in late 2015.

At the ceremony at Main Street and Truman Road, Mayor Sly James said this “sends a signal that Kansas City gets transportation.”

We want more residents and visitors downtown and the this investment will achieve those goals, he said.

He and councilman Russ Johnson said the starter line has already prompted up to three quarters of a billion dollars in planned development.

Johnson quoted what developer Jonathan Arnold just told the Kansas City Star about his plan to build a $50 million, 300-unit development in the River Market: “When the streetcar was announced, we decided to expand and gain control of the entire block.”

The sun rises in the east, men have walked on the moon and “streetcars deliver economic development,” Johnson said.

Patience Jones at the streetcar groundbreaking.

Patience Jones at the streetcar groundbreaking.

Patience Jones, who moved to downtown from New York City about four years ago, said the streetcars will attract young people who want a dynamic city.

People ask why she and her husband moved here from New York, but that is the wrong response. “The right reaction is of course you did because Kansas City is awesome,” she said. “I plan to ride the streetcar several times a day.”

Voters will decide in August and November on whether to add eight more miles to the starter line, which James said will carry prosperity into other areas of the city.

One Comment

  1. Dan Cofran, Kansas City MO says:

    Kansas City’s biggest problems are crime and public schools, not public transit. Tax dollars should be spent carefully on city services and infrastructure that will make people WANT to live, work and STAY in Kansas City. On that count, streetcars are a $575 million “want,” not a “need.”

    No matter how successful we may be attracting millennials and entrepreneurs to Kansas City, it will take safe neighborhoods and good schools to KEEP them in Kansas City when they’re ready to start families. Otherwise, they’re off to Johnson County and eastern Jackson County. It’s just too easy to “vote with your feet.”

    The proposed streetcar system will be stylish but functionally will duplicate the existing bus service we already have on Main St., Independence Ave. and Linwood Blvd.

    To make matters worse, it will impose a regressive one cent sales tax on those least able to pay for it, particularly at a time when the city and state are pushing sales taxes that will put total sales taxes in most of Kansas City over 10%.

    Our future is about investing in people, not flashy projects.

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