Omaha streetcar plans: Shared traffic lanes will connect city’s communities

City plans to buy up to six streetcars at a cost of $6 million each
Transportation advocates say a streetcar would make Omaha more walkable.
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 7:09 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - 6 News is digging deeper into Omaha’s plans for a streetcar — years in the making.

Mayor Jean Stothert laid out how it will be paid for yesterday, no increase in taxes, but looking at the proposed route of the streetcar, we noticed some potential issues and how the three-mile corridor from 10th Street to Saddle Creek Road could change.

Targeted for unveiling in 2026, city leaders studied other streetcar communities, like Kansas City.

The Omaha plan connects downtown with the Blackstone District and University of Nebraska Medical Center; the preliminary route calls for the line to run mostly along Farnam Street.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, that the city is again making...
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, that the city is again making plans for a streetcar.(City of Omaha)

“It’s hard to see how you don’t get a benefit from transportation help,” Mike Peters of Site 1 Brewing said.

His business is located near 26th Street on Farnam.

“The streetcar will make the whole corridor walkable and more pedestrian-friendly and for businesses that’s really what we’re all looking for,” he said.

City officials tell 6 News that streetcars will share traffic lanes with regular vehicles.

Farnam Street is several lanes wide downtown and one way to Midtown Crossing, so adding a streetcar there shouldn’t be a problem.

There are questions on how tight of a fit it will be as it begins to bottleneck at Midtown Crossing and through Blackstone.

Business owners we talked to are welcoming the change.

“People will start walking more and they will not be dependent on their car. It’s more safe,” said Mira Tamata of Kathmandu Momo Station near 40th and Farnam.

We asked about on-street parking and if there will be multiple rails on Farnam Street between Turner Park and Blackstone.

Those issues should be ironed out in the final design phase and what’s happening to the bike lanes on Harney Street is up in the air too.

Still, talk of streetcars are already bringing a lot of excitement to the area.

“It will give us a more city vibe,” Tamata said.

Savannah Gunther and Sam Khan just stumbled onto the Blackstone district while driving through town.

“I was in Vancouver, Washington for a job,” Savannah said, so she’s been exposed to cities that have streetcar systems.

So, do they work?

“They do yeah,” she said.  “It works a lot better when you have good weather.”

“It’s more popular for young professionals and most cities have those neighborhoods or those areas where they like to be more active,” Khan said. “Also, I think it’s an exploratory mindset, they want to explore new things so okay I want to try Momo’s so let’s try it out.”

City leaders hope the streetcar attracts newcomers to the area.

A benefit of streetcars means the creation of several destinations along the corridor.

“I’m very excited. I think it’s going to do it’s going to make a lot of difference for all of us,” Tamata said.

“I think it gives people choices and that’s what world-class cities do,” Peter said.

Peter believes adding a reliable and inexpensive transportation system through the area opens the door for all businesses.

“If you want to start at the Cottonwood (Hotel) and you want to come to Site 1 and you want to end up down at the new park you can and I think that’s really exciting,” he said.

The city plans to buy up to six streetcars at a cost of $6 million each.  No word yet on how many will run at once, or how often.

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