By Kevin Collison
Remember those trenches, makeshift bridges and orange fencing that disrupted downtown for what seemed an eternity when the starter streetcar line was built?
Aaron Adams, the project manager planning the Main Street extension from Union Station to UMKC, is confident this project, while longer, won’t be as troublesome.
“Everything we’re seeing right now is there will be less utility work than we saw downtown and it’s also a wider thoroughfare,” he said.
“We hope to be more efficient with construction and try to make the public feel as little pain as possible.”
Adams was in the conference room of the new project office for the Main Street extension at 1 E. Armour Blvd.
On the walls were a preliminary layout of the planned Main Street route cobbled together across sheets of paper, and for inspiration, a historic map of the once extensive Kansas City streetcar system.
The joint venture charged with preparing a final design and firm price tag for the estimated $351 million project is called KC Streetcar Constructors. It’s comprised of St. Joseph-based Herzog Contracting and Stacy and Witbeck of Alameda, Cal.
KCSC is working with the designer, HDR, and the project’s public partners, the KC Area Transportation Authority and the City of Kansas City.
The current schedule calls for actual streetcar line construction to begin in late summer 2022. Testing of the completed route with streetcars would start in February 2025 and actual operations would begin in late 2025.
The project got the green light from the Federal Transit Administration in August when the agency announced $50.8 million in funding for the extension, the first installment of the estimated $174.1 million federal share.
The remainder of the cost will be paid for locally through a transportation development district approved by voters living within the TDD in 2018. The TDD will levy a property tax surcharge and additional one-cent sales tax within its borders.
The assessment bills for the TDD are likely to go out to property owners in the corridor late next year, according to Donna Mandelbaum, spokeswoman for the KC Streetcar Authority.
Adams returns to Kansas City after helping design and build the initial downtown starter line that opened in May 2016. His latest project was helping Oklahoma City build its 5.29 mile streetcar line through downtown.
Herzog, which employs 2,500 people in St. Joe, has built a reputation in recent years as being a major national player in rail transit.
Other projects on Adams resume include commuter rail system serving Salt Lake City and nearby communities, the Dallas light rail and rail projects in the San Francisco Bay area and Seattle.
“We tout ourselves as the only company in the nation that can build, operate and maintain a rail transit system,” Adams said.
The Main Street extension will lay about 7 miles of track total, inbound and outbound. Earlier this year, the KC Streetcar Authority released a virtual birds-eye video of how the route would work.
The preliminary construction work will involve relocating private utilities including the Evergy electricity infrastructure, Spire natural gas lines and Google Fiber; and the city water and sewer lines.
The start of water and sewer line relocation work is expected soon, and will begin at Pershing Road and move south. The City Water Department has set up a webpage for people to keep track of that aspect of the project.
Adams said the KC Area Transportation Authority will coordinate the utility work with his firm providing assistance.
“The idea of our plan is to allow more efficient traffic flow through the work site,” he said. “Everything we’re seeing now is pointing to less utility work (than downtown).”
Four people are currently working in the KC Streetcar Constructors offices, which occupies 7,500 square-feet on the first floor of the two-story building at the southeast corner of Main and Armour.
Adams said more staff is expected to be hired after the first of the year.
If KC Streetcar Constructors ultimately is awarded the contract to build the Main Street extension, Adams said it would likely occupy the entire first floor of the building and employ about 50 people there.
He’s excited not only about the project, but how it will enhance what happens along the route.
“The overall development that will come will be like the starter line,” Adams said. “I will be looking forward to that.”
Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.