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Why Thursday's Streetcar Groundbreaking Is The Real Thing

Submitted photo
City of Kansas City, Mo.

There will be no gold-plated shovels at Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for the  streetcar in downtown Kansas City, Mo. – that's a promise.

"We wanted to do something different because the streetcar is a game-changer for Kansas City," says city spokesman Chris Hernandez.

Thursday is set to mark the start of major construction on the downtown starter line, the first phase in the city's multi-year streetcar initiative.

Hernandez calls the ceremony "the big shebang" – the most important streetcar milestone to date. But people who have been following the issue closely may remember a similar event in the fall. That was to dedicate the vehicle maintenance facility in honor of transit advocate Kite Singleton.

For people who live and work downtown, orange cones are already a familiar sight. Utility companies such as Kansas City Power & Light and Missouri Gas Energy began their prep work last fall, moving manhole covers and access points in advance of the streetcar construction.

But the work kicking off Thursday will actually build the streetcar. First the city has to relocate water and sewer lines, work Hernandez says has been slated to happen for a long time and makes sense to do before the streetcar goes in. Then the construction company building the track will start putting down slab.

Those activities should be complete sometime next year.

In the meantime, voters will decide the fate of future streetcar expansion. They'll have a chance to weigh in on proposed boundaries for the taxing district to support the second phase of streetcar construction in August. Then, in November, voters would approve the tax and the specific rate.

If both initiatives pass, Hernandez says the city wouldn't start charging the tax until it secured matching federal funds to build the expansion line. Work wouldn't start until after the starter line opens.

The city plans to keep Main Street open during construction, shifting lanes as different parts of the project are completed.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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