Kansas City, Mo., which once had one of North America's largest streetcar systems, mothballed the last of its 25 routes in 1957. When voters declined to resurrect the system six decades later, officials decided to tackle the project one step at a time. The first was asking them to approve a transportation development district (TDD) to fund free rides as well as operating costs. That did the trick.

Things happened fast after that. Construction on the first 2.2 miles began in 2014 and ended in 2015. On May 6, 2016, passengers boarded the modern version of this age-old public transit option: the electric-powered Urbos 3 tram, manufactured by the U.S. arm of the Spanish company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles. Almost 6,000 people use KC Streetcar every day, twice original projections, so the city ordered two more streetcars in 2017. Passengers get on and off at 16 stops throughout the central business district to access Amtrak, buses, and bicycle-share kiosks and popular destinations. Last year, voters approved another TDD to fund a 3.75-mile expansion to the south; the KC Port Authority is expected to help fund a 0.75-mile expansion to the north.

The $102 million project was delivered on time, under budget, and claim-free, and has generated more than $400 million in development along the route. The city issued almost $64 million in special obligation bonds to be repaid via a one-cent sales tax levied within the TDD. Three federal grants including a $20 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant provided $37 million. A utility also kicked in some funding.


KC Streetcar is the first transit project to achieve Envision recognition from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and the tenth to receive Platinum verification. It also earned an American Public Works Association Project of the Year award in the Transportation (more than $75 million) category. The city's Public Works Department was managing agency, KC Streetcar Constructors was primary contractor, and HDR was primary consultant.

Many stakeholders hesitated to embrace the streetcar. Face-to-face meetings, public gatherings, presentations, informational “streetcar strolls” down the corridor, and advance painting of lane and parking changes eased concerns. The project team modified the location or design of every stop based on stakeholder feedback. The team also worked with adjacent businesses throughout construction to minimize negative impacts during construction. From planning to completion, collaboration resulted in one of the nation's fastest federally funded streetcar projects.

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