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Mayor announces streetcar plan
February 9, 2022
After thirteen years of planning, Mayor Jean Stothert announced the plans to build a streetcar in East Omaha. The streetcar will be a mile long track and contain thirteen stops. The car will owned by the city and operated by the transit authority. The total expenses of the car is projected to cost the city $225-306 million. The track is expected to be up and running by 2026.
Jennifer Taylor, Central alumni, works as an assistant city attorney in the civic department. Working on this project, Taylor says the track timeline to being built depends on “how quickly we get designing done.”
There are still many factors being decided in the planning of the streetcar. Omaha is thinking about possibly partnering with another city on the order of materials. The next six to nine months will be a “heavy amount of engineering and planning.” Taylor said the relocation of utilities and putting the rail into the street could take four years.
What Taylor calls the first phase is putting the streetcar on Farnam from streets 10th to 42nd. “Ideally we would love to have it be successful enough that it warrants to have a phase two or three,” Taylor said. Phase two and three would be the extension of the track into either North or South Omaha.
“Our biggest struggle has been trying to find a viable way to pay for it,” Taylor said. The city plans to issue revenue bonds to fund the streetcar. They will be issued and purchased by bond holders. The bonds will be paid back through an increased property tax revenue.
The streetcar will be modeled after streetcars in cities of similar size. Detroit, Kansas City, and Milwaukee are all examples. They have also based their data and research off these cities experiences.
The streetcar will allow dense development to be built. Increasing profit around the area will attract businesses to the heart of Omaha, downtown.
Making this streetcar a transportation option is said to eventually slow the need for parking garages. This car will take away the need for driving a car everywhere a person wants to go. Taylor explains instead of building separate, small parking garages they will need to build a few large ones that are strategically placed so they can “utilize the garages and car together in what is called the total mobility system.”
“For the long term growth of the city we need to take advantage of the opportunities to develop that are still available,” says Taylor. “If we continue to develop the way we have been, we will loose all ability we have to density develop the core in a way that supports long term growth.” Taylor thinks if they loose this opportunity they will never grow in the way the city needs to.
Taylor says creating a streetcar could eventually benefit students. “The more development downtown, the more businesses we can attract, the more jobs we could provide, the more opportunities there will be.” She says students will be able to take advantage of this and find a job.
The mayor and her team seem to be creating a city that can grow long-term. They are hoping this streetcar will not only attract business but customers. Making Omaha a vibrant place is an important aspect of their reasoning for creating this project. The building blocks for their purpose of this project also stem from keeping people here. They are hoping people will want to stay in Omaha because of the long-term effects the streetcar will eventually create.