By Kevin Collison
Streetcar service from Union Station to Berkley Riverfront Park is expected to be running by early 2024 following the unanimous approval by the Port KC board of an agreement with the KC Streetcar Authority and the KCATA Monday.
The half-mile, $20.2 million extension from the current north terminus in the River Market to a stop on the west side of Berkley Park is expected to begin construction next year. It’s the result of $14.2 million federal grant awarded last September.
The streetcar riverfront extension will utilize the Grand Viaduct to reach Berkley Park. A separate project funded by the city will build a pedestrian and bicycle bridge parallel to the viaduct. It’s expected to open in spring 2023.
Together, the new transportation options will substantially expand access to the downtown riverfront and its growing residential community and recreational opportunities.
In recent years, The Union at Berkley Riverfront apartment project opened with 410 units and the new Core apartment project now being built by Northpoint Development will add another 348 apartments when it begins opening this fall.
Recreational opportunities include the park and riverfront trail, and venues including the Bar K dog park and cafe, and Casino KC, the former Isle of Capri, which is slated for a $61 million upgrade by its new owner, Bally.
Port KC also is in negotiations with a private operator for an outdoor, 6,500 square-foot recreational beer garden facility in the park that will include a full bar, food trucks, rooftop patio, yard games, sand volleyball and ice skating.
And the authority is working with another private operator to open an outdoor music venue capable of accommodating 6,000 people on the east end of the park.
The streetcar riverfront extension is a separate project from the recently announced extension of the streetcar down Main Street from Union Station to the University of Missouri Kansas City.
Utility relocation work in advance of that $351.6 million project already is underway.
By 2025, perhaps earlier, a 6.2-mile streetcar line from the riverfront to UMKC is expected to be operating. It will connect destinations including the River Market, central downtown, the Crossroads, Crown Center, Midtown, Westport and the Country Club Plaza.
The Streetcar Authority and Port KC also anticipate eventually extending the streetcar to Casino KC. A development plan for the casino includes a potential streetcar stop.
In addition to serving the casino, there have been discussions of locating a park-and-ride lot at the last stop where commuters and visitors from the Northland could leave their cars and ride the streetcar to their final destination.
Under the terms of the streetcar riverfront extension agreement, Port KC will contribute $5 million, the Kansas City Transportation Authority, $500,000 and the Streetcar Authority, $500,000 to build the line along with the $14.2 million federal grant.
Port KC expects to fund its share from a portion of the new sales and property tax revenues generated by development along the riverfront.
Port KC also will pay 75 percent of the operating costs estimated at $470,000 annually. The Streetcar Authority will cover the remainder.
The Kansas City Council must still approve the final agreement.
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