Kansas City Finally Begins Surface Work on KC Streetcar Extension: ‘It’s Life Changing’ | KCUR 89.3

Surface work on the KC Tram Extension is finally underway.

With underground utility work nearing completion on Main Street, KC streetcar workers broke ground on Wednesday on the system’s new route between Union Station and UMKC.

At a ceremony on Main Street at Pershing Road, Kansas City leaders said it would take just over two years to install the 3.5 miles of railroad tracks and infrastructure.

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

Carlos Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

Tom Gerend, the Executive Director or KC Streetcar Authority, speaks at groundbreaking ceremonies for the Main Street extension on Wednesday.

Agrawal said the additional light rail line will increase student 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 in the community.

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

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

But drivers should always expect cones and barriers.

“It won’t be as chaotic,” Yord said. “It will be a little less dispersed and a little more coordinated.”

A woman with sunglasses uses a silver marker to sign her name on a section of black steel rail.  On the rail are other signatures.  Behind her, a crowd stands with others signing another rail segment.

Carlos Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

Audrey Richards, whose husband works for Stacy and Witbeck on the KC streetcar project, signs a section of rail Wednesday after a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on the Main Street extension.

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

KC Streetcar estimates that the construction of the rail, poles, cables and other components will be completed by the end of 2024. They plan to start carrying passengers sometime in 2025.

Zack Brown, who lives in the nearby Western Auto building, was one of many 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 looked forward to the expansion’s completion.

“It’s a really good transit backbone for the whole city from the River Market all the way to 51st Street,” Brown says.

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

“It opens up your options for where to take it,” he said. “Just the connections out of that, that’s what I imagine. He can go anywhere from a single line and drift off.

Maria D. Ervin