KC Streetcar officials plan route to plaza, UMKC campus
Kansas City streetcar officials have identified eight intersections as possible stops along the extension of the streetcar line from Union Station to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Now, they want your feedback on their preliminary suggestions for the stops and how the streetcars might interact with traffic along the 3.5-mile extension, which basically goes down Main Street.
The extension will boost the length of the streetcar line to 5.7 miles, from the River Market to UMKC. The new section wouldn't open until 2023, but officials are ironing out some details as they move forward.
“We’re very early on in the project," said Donna Mandelbaum, communications director for the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.
The authority held a public comment session last week on plans for the extension of the streetcar line, including the eight proposed stops and a few ideas on how to work streetcars into traffic or whether they should run alongside the road, keeping their distance from cars.
The proposed stops would fall where Main intersects with 27th Street, Linwood, Armour Boulevard, 39th Street, 43rd Street, 45th Street and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and at Brookside Boulevard and 51st Street.
But the stops were just possibilities as the authority works to get feedback from the public in preparation for a final report it plans to issue in June.
“Nothing is set in stone," Mandelbaum said.
That proposal will include recommendations for the stops, analysis on how to connect the streetcar to the existing bus network and how it would affect car traffic. The authority's executive director, Tom Gerend, said the goal is to make the streetcar the "spine of the regional transit system."
Gerend said the crowd at last week's forum supported the proposed extension, but some had thoughts on where individual stops should be placed. To some, the 43rd Street and 45th Street stops would be too close together. Others thought Westport Road would be a better stop than 39th Street.
Bob Mayer, a real estate consultant with MR Capital Advisors, said a stop at 39th Street would be a benefit for future residents of the Monarch and Netherland buildings, a project his clients Caleb Buland and Ilan Salzberg are developing. The Netherland will be a redevelopment of Hawthorn Plaza, but named for the Netherland Hotel, which first occupied the building.
Mayer said the possibility of a streetcar extension was one of the factors in developers' decision to select those buildings. The $20 million project will create more than 170 new apartments in a neighborhood Mayer said has often been transient but is being redeveloped.
"Streetcar is kind of driving that train, similar to downtown," Mayer said.
Mayer said his office is near the possible 43rd Street stop, and his house is near the possible 51st Street and Brookside Boulevard stop. He wouldn't go without a car because he has client meetings all over town, but he said he might opt to take the streetcar to some meetings he has around downtown.
With Main Street wider along the proposed extension, officials are also debating whether to put the track along the outside edge of the road or in the middle. Gerend said the drawback of a center-running streetcar is that loading might be less accessible.
On the current downtown line, riders can wait for the streetcar along the sidewalk or in a nearby business, but with a streetcar running down the middle, riders would have to wait on platforms in the middle of the street.
A center-running streetcar might also inhibit the ability of vehicles to make a left turn at certain intersections, he said.
“But the biggest advantage is probably operationally — that you’re on the inside of the street, so you’re not conflicting with parked cars or loading trucks," Gerend said.
Gerend said a center-running streetcar might also make construction more efficient. Each stop could have a shared platform in the middle rather than a platform on either side of the street, like the existing downtown line.
When the streetcar crosses Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and Main Street becomes Brookside Boulevard, it could run out of traffic entirely in the country club right of way, a strip of grass where trolley service used to run in the 1950s, Gerend said. He said that land is owned by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority as part of the Trolley Track Trail.
The streetcar could be built in a way that would retain the trail, Gerend said.
The streetcar authority is taking feedback online and plans to have another session in June. Knowing better what the route will look like is essential for cost estimates and ridership projections, Gerend said.
After that, officials plan to apply for federal grants to help build the streetcar. Mandelbaum said the existing 2.2-mile line that runs from River Market to Union Station cost $102 million, and the city secured $37 million in grants.