After a year of construction, crews have finally completed laying Kansas City's downtown streetcar tracks.
More than 100 people showed up to the project's "River Market Rail Rally" Wednesday, which celebrated the streetcar's progress, as well as new artwork that will be showcased on two other stops in the River Market neighborhood near downtown.
Mayor Sly James spoke at the rally, flanked by both outgoing and incoming city council members. James says the streetcar has played a major role in bringing $1.3 billion in development projects to Kansas City's downtown area, and that residents will soon see the line in action.
"Every bit of rail that we needed to lay has been laid," James said. "That's 21,000 feet of rail, all in the ground, all welded together. All we need are some trains, we need some testing done, we need to get overhead lines in, and then we're ready to rock and roll."
Mark Rowlands of the River Market Community Improvement District also spoke at the event. He made a point to thank business owners in the area who were negatively affected by streetcar construction.
"They've had a lot of patience going through this whole process, and it's only going to get better from this point out," Rowlands said. "I want to assure [business owners] that we will continue to be your partners everyday to ensure that this is a clean, safe and green community."
Streetcar officials estimate that the project is currently around 80 percent completed. The first streetcar vehicles are expected to arrive in Kansas City this fall.
The line still needs paving to make the roads along the tracks smooth, as well as traffic signals and other infrastructure. Some areas of the tracks themselves also require concrete pouring and more work before they'll be ready for streetcar vehicles.
After a testing period, the line will open to the public in early 2016.