This week's promise that the first of Kansas City's four streetcars will be delivered by Oct. 29 improved the chances of having the starter line open as hoped for Big-12 Tournament crowds in March.
A delivery date moved back from June to December would have made a March start virtually impossible.
City Manager Troy Sculte, streetcar project director Ralph Davis and Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend all vowed Thursday to do their best to meet the March start goal. And all believed it is possible if everything goes right.
On the positive side, Davis and Gerend were able to negotiate an accelerated production schedule on the part of car-builder CAF U.S.A. Also, the local construction is on schedule and the rails, electrical systems and other components are expected to be completed two weeks before the Oct. 29 delivery.
But when the first streetcar rolls into town aboard a flat-bed truck, and assuming the truck arrives on schedule or before, there are still challenges to be met.
Each streetcar must undergo 300 miles of dry-run testing and those test results must please state and federal transportation officials before the line opens to passengers. And as Davis pointed out, federal and state agencies can sometimes be difficult to control, and like streetcar assembly plants can get behind on promised schedules.
Mayor Sly James volunteered that the U.S. Department of Transportation has shown great enthusiasm for the Kansas City streetcar project. But he and some other council members seemed less sure of how prompt the response would be from Missouri officials.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle is getting enough vehicles for an effective start. Streetcar project officials said Thursday that it will take three cars in operation to make the system work effectively. And Davis said the delivery dates proposed on cars number 2, 3 and 4 were unacceptable — he wouldn't even tell the city council what those offered dates were. The matter, he said, is still being negotiated.
City Manager Troy Schulte summed up the situation as he saw it.
“I think the big issue is if we can get the damn things in town, we'll go, and they have pledged to work with us. So the key is to get the cars into Kansas City.“