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KC Council panel supports spending $3.7 million for ‘Smart City’ streetcar initiative

Street signs promoting the new Kansas City downtown streetcar line are posted on poles along Main Street during the construction phase of the project.
Street signs promoting the new Kansas City downtown streetcar line are posted on poles along Main Street during the construction phase of the project. The Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Council’s Finance Committee on Wednesday endorsed spending $3.7 million in city funds on a “Smart City” initiative to provide high-tech services along the downtown streetcar line.

The measure, which goes to the full council Thursday, is intended to leverage about $12 million from Cisco Systems and other private companies.

The deal caps a year of negotiations between the city and Cisco to develop a Smart City network along the two-mile streetcar line, with 25 interactive digital kiosks along the route that can provide information about local cultural events, food and entertainment, other businesses and city services such as the 311 Action Center.

Sensors along the route would also capture data and help the city with traffic flow and obstructions, street lighting and other city services.

It’s a means for city government “to use technology to be more effective,” said Ashley Hand, the city’s chief innovation officer.

One big feature that has been repeatedly touted has been free public Wi-Fi along the route for residents and visitors.

An earlier version of the ordinance said that network would be provided “in partnership with Sprint,” but that section of the ordinance has now been deleted.

Sprint is not yet a named partner in the venture, which so far includes only Cisco and Think Big Partners.

“We have been exploring this opportunity with the City of KC; no agreeement has been signed, so we are not commenting beyond that for now,” said Sprint spokeswoman Melinda Tiemeyer.

The agreement calls for the city to spend $3.73 million. The spending would be financed over 10 years, with debt service of $300,000 in 2016 and then ramping up to $430,000 for the remaining nine years.

Though the private sector is expected to invest $12 million, Cisco declined comment Wednesday, and no further information was available.

The Star’s Mark Davis contributed to this report.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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