The pavement is still quite bumpy and uneven along Kansas City’s downtown streetcar route, but relief for motorists is on the way.
Over the next month, Fahey Construction will grind down Main Street and other roads that border the tracks and put in a new asphalt surface along the entire two-mile route.
“Everything is going to get prettied up,” Meghan Jansen, Kansas City streetcar construction spokeswoman, told the Kansas City Streetcar Authority on Thursday.
The roadwork was one of several developments highlighted for the authority, which will oversee the streetcar system’s operation, as more than a year of track construction nears its end. Thanks to the $102 million project, streetcars will run from River Market to near Union Station by sometime in 2016.
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In other signs of progress, the first of four streetcar vehicles is now being tested in New York before delivery in late October.
The road resurfacing began this week in the Crossroads, at the southern end of the route. It will then smooth out the circular route through River Market and conclude along Main Street between the northern and southern points.
The overlay should be completed by the latter part of October, Jansen said.
The rest of the streetcar construction also is on pace to be finished by late October. The Singleton Yard vehicle maintenance facility near Third and Holmes streets is 95 percent complete, and concrete has been poured for nine of the 16 streetcar platforms.
Much of the overhead electrical line work is also done, and two of four giant substations that will power the system have been delivered. Two more are on their way.
▪ Parking enforcement is being stepped up. Three vehicles already have been ticketed this week for parking over the white line that runs alongside the tracks. Vehicles are not supposed to encroach beyond that line, where they could block the streetcar once the system starts.
Streetcar authority member David Johnson said some people have the impression that there’s no longer any parking along Main Street, where the streetcar track runs.
That’s not true, Johnson emphasized, but people do have to be careful not to park over the white line. The city is still working on a towing policy that will apply when cars truly block the streetcars.
▪ The city and authority still are trying to speed up delivery of the four streetcar vehicles from the manufacturing facility in Elmira, N.Y.
Mayor Sly James has said he hopes the vehicles can all be tested and ready to carry passengers in time for the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament at the Sprint Center next March. Thousands of visitors will descend on the city for those games, and city officials have said it would be a great time to launch the new streetcar system.
But the vehicles must each be tested first for 300 miles along the route, and that requires a significant lead time before next spring. A severe winter could also interfere with that schedule.
There are some hopeful signs. Kansas City’s first streetcar vehicle was moved Thursday onto a testing track in Elmira, in preparation for delivering it to Kansas City.
Streetcar Authority director Tom Gerend said that first streetcar is expected by Oct. 29 and it will be placed soon after on the tracks to begin testing. It will first be towed by a truck to check clearances with the overhead wires and other aspects of the route before it operates on its own power.
The second vehicle is now expected in early to mid December, Gerend said. But the city needs to test at least three vehicles for the system to be fully operational, and it would prefer to have all four tested. Delivery of vehicles three and four is still being negotiated.
Streetcar authority board members emphasized that it’s better to have a successful public launch than a speedy one.
It’s far more important, they said, to make sure that the system is properly tested for safety and the best passenger experience possible than it is to meet some arbitrary sports competition deadline.
“Without a doubt,” Gerend agreed.