The Kansas City Streetcar Authority on Wednesday endorsed a proposed route extension north to Berkley Riverfront Park along the Grand Street Viaduct.
A feasibility study found extension was the most practical and affordable route.
“This is a really unique opportunity,” Streetcar Authority executive director Tom Gerend told the board, adding that an extension would knit the riverfront to the streetcar’s current end point in River Market. “The ability to bridge that divide...is potentially a powerful connection.”
Last September, the Authority approved a study on the merits of extending the downtown starter route past the River Market about three-quarters of a mile to Berkley Riverfront Park. The Streetcar Authority, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Port KC shared the study cost, estimated at $225,000.
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The study, conducted by a team led by Burns & McDonnell, examined options for the best route and technical feasibility. It studied possible extensions on 3rd Street, which would require a new bridge, or on 5th Street through Columbus Park. But both of those were considerably more expensive and had other challenges.
The study found that the existing Grand Street Viaduct can handle streetcars traveling in traffic with dual track, with a stub end at the northern terminus.
The riverfront is seen as a potential extension point because development is finally starting to occur there. Port KC has broken ground on a $72-million, 400-unit apartment and retail project on the riverfront. Additional development is anticipated.
The extension’s estimated cost was not disclosed but is said to be in the neighborhood of $30 million.
Gerend said the next step calls for refining the cost and coming up with a financing strategy, which could include seeking federal funds and private development financing. It’s not anticipated that this extension would require a public tax increase or a public vote. The financing strategy could become clearer by late this year, Gerend said.
From 1870 to 1957 streetcars roamed Kansas City's streets. Now, there are only four KC streetcars but they're picking up where the old series left off.