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Kansas City finally starts above-ground work on KC Streetcar extension: ‘It is a life changer’

Two streetcars sit on a street. There are cones and barriers nearby.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
KC Streetcars sit on Main Street near Union Station on Wednesday morning near the location of groundbreaking ceremonies for the southern extension to UMKC and 51st Street.

Now that underground utility work is nearly finished on Main Street, KC Streetcar workers broke ground Wednesday on the system’s extension from Union Station to UMKC. Officials anticipate to start ferrying riders sometime in 2025.

Above-ground work on the KC Streetcar extension is finally underway.

Now that underground utility work is nearly finished on Main Street, KC Streetcar workers broke ground Wednesday on construction of the system’s new route from Union Station to UMKC.

In a ceremony at Main Street at Pershing Road, Kansas City leaders said it will take a little more than two years to install the 3.5 miles of rail and infrastructure.

“For UMKC, this extension is not just a game changer, it is a life changer,” said UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal.

A man speaks at a podium. Behind him are orange and white street barriers and a streetcar.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Tom Gerend, the executive director or KC Streetcar Authority, talks Wednesday during groundbreaking ceremonies for the Main Street Extension.

Agrawal said the additional line of streetcar will increase students’ mobility, giving them access to other parts of the city and the ability to travel to work or internships. But Agrawal also said the extension will increase the school’s visibility to the community.

“For reasons ranging from fuel economy to climate change, to equal opportunity for all, public mass transport is the future,” Agrawal said.

Bill Yord, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s utility project manager, said that laying the rail segments will create fewer traffic diversions and detours on Main Street than the last few years of underground work.

But drivers should still expect cones and barriers.

“It won’t look as chaotic,” Yord said. “It’ll be a little bit less scattered and a little bit more coordinated.”

A woman with sunglasses uses a silver marker to sign her name to a black, steel section of rail. On the rail are other signatures. Behind her, a crowd is standing with others signing a different segment of rail.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Audrey Richards, whose husband works for Stacy and Witbeck on the KC Streetcar project, signs a section of rail Wednesday following a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction of the Main Street Extension.

Officials said construction of the rails will take place one segment at a time, and crews will only work on one side of the road at a time. North-to-south traffic will continue to flow along Main Street during construction.

KC Streetcar estimates the construction of the rail, poles, wires and other components will be completed in late 2024. They anticipate to start ferrying riders sometime in 2025.

Zack Brown, who lives in the nearby Western Auto building, was one of several people to sign sections of rail as part of the groundbreaking ceremony. He said he was already a fan of Kansas City’s bus and streetcar system, and was looking forward to completion of the extension..

“It makes a really good transit spine for the whole city to be from the River Market all the way down to 51st Street,” Brown says.

Brown said he rides the bus regularly but he likes the reliability of the streetcar, and looks forward to the new route.

“It opens your options for places to take it,” he said. “Just the connections off of that is what I’m imagining. It can go anywhere from a single line and branch off of that.”

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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