Cars fill the streets from the River Market to Union Station every day, but that isn’t stopping transit engineers and advocates from envisioning a day when streetcars might share the road.
About 35 people did a “streetcar stroll” Wednesday on the proposed 2.2-mile route, primarily on Main Street through downtown, to get an idea where the streetcar stops would be, how vehicle traffic and parking would be affected and the impact on utilities and businesses.
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It was one more step in the engineering planning needed to make the streetcars a reality in the next few years. It also was a preview to public meetings scheduled next week on how the streetcars would operate and how to minimize the impact of construction.
“This is the closest we’ve ever been,” said David Johnson, a downtown resident and streetcar supporter. “It’s very doable.”
Mike Fredholm, who owns a condominium downtown, rolled his wheelchair through the whole route and said he was excited about the project, although he wanted to know more about the proposed downtown property tax increases that would help pay the estimated $100 million cost.
Fredholm said the stroll was very beneficial and helped him envision how the system would work.
“You could really see how it would be used,” Fredholm said. “It seems like it will fit really well with the traffic and the cars.”
Christopher Kinzel, a deputy project manager with HDR Engineering, explained to Fredholm and others how parking would be adjusted on certain River Market streets. Cars would back into the spaces so they would not back out into the streetcars. Councilwoman Jan Marcason noted that some back-in parking already exists in the Crossroads Arts District.
Some business owners have questioned the affect the project would have on underground utilities. That is one of the main things engineers are studying, said Ralph Davis, Kansas City’s manager of engineering services.
“We have those same concerns,” Davis said, noting that utilities are being mapped and some may have to be moved.
Councilman Dick Davis, who served 23 years as general manager of the Area Transportation Authority, said he had been trying to bring rail transit to Kansas City since the 1970s. Davis, who participated in the stroll, said he was more optimistic now than ever because the city has the right mayor and other political leaders to finally make it happen.
Public open houses will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., with brief presentations at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on these days:
• Tuesday: Helzberg Auditorium, Kansas City Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
• Wednesday: Atrium, Steamboat Arabia Museum, 400 Grand Blvd.
• Thursday, May 17. Arthur Stilwell Room, Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road.